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Home > Health Library > Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a serious illness that can happen in the first few months after childbirth. It also can happen after miscarriage or stillbirth. It can make you feel very sad, hopeless, and worthless. You may have trouble caring for and bonding with your baby.
Postpartum depression is not the "baby blues," which usually go away within a couple of weeks. The symptoms of postpartum depression can last for months.
In rare cases, a woman may have a severe form of depression called postpartum psychosis. This is an emergency because it can quickly get worse and put her or others in danger.
It's very important to get treatment for depression. The sooner you get treated, the sooner you'll feel better and enjoy your baby.
Postpartum depression seems to be brought on by the changes in hormone levels that happen after pregnancy. Some things can increase your chances of getting it, such as having depression in the past, not having good support, or having a lot of other stress.
The most common symptoms of postpartum depression are feeling very sad or hopeless and losing pleasure in life. Other symptoms may include trouble sleeping or poor appetite. Symptoms can happen in the first day or two after the birth or a couple of weeks after the birth. They can sometimes last for months.
Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your mood and your symptoms. Be sure to tell your doctor about any feelings of "baby blues" at your first checkup after the baby is born. Your doctor will want to follow up with you to see how you are feeling.
Postpartum depression is treated with counseling and antidepressant medicines. Women with milder depression may get better with counseling alone. But many women need both. To help yourself get better, try to eat well, get exercise every day, and get as much sleep as possible. Get support from family and friends if you can.
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A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of having a certain problem. Risk factors for postpartum depression include:
Risk factors for postpartum psychosis include:
If you have a history of depression or postpartum depression or if you're having symptoms of depression, be sure to tell your doctor. Counseling may help lower your risk for postpartum depression. In some cases, your doctor may recommend that you start taking an antidepressant.
Many new moms feel down, anxious, or grumpy in the weeks after giving birth. For some, these feelings last longer and are more intense. If you or your loved ones are worried about how you're feeling, talk to your doctor right away.
The two most common symptoms of depression are:
Nearly every day, you may also:
An especially serious symptom of depression is thinking about death and suicide. Some women with postpartum depression have fleeting, frightening thoughts of harming their babies.
If you have at least five of the above symptoms for 2 weeks or longer, and one of the symptoms is either sadness or loss of interest, you may have depression and may need treatment.
Even if you have fewer symptoms, you may still be depressed and may benefit from treatment. No matter how many symptoms you have, it's important to see your doctor. The sooner you get treatment, the better your chance for a quick and full recovery.
Postpartum psychosis is a rare, severe, and dangerous form of postpartum depression. This condition is most likely to affect women who have bipolar disorder or a history of postpartum psychosis. Symptoms usually start during the first 3 weeks (as soon as 1 to 2 days) after childbirth. Symptoms can include:
Postpartum psychosis is considered an emergency that requires immediate medical treatment.
If you have any psychotic symptoms, seek emergency help right away. Until you tell your doctor and get treatment, you are at high risk of suddenly harming yourself or your baby.
Symptoms of postpartum depression start in the weeks to months after childbirth, miscarriage, or stillbirth. Postpartum depression makes it hard for you to function well. This includes caring for and bonding with your baby. Early diagnosis and treatment are important. In rare cases, dangerous postpartum psychosis can occur.
Call 911, the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453), or other emergency services immediately if:
If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, or feeling hopeless, get help right away. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line. Consider saving these numbers in your phone.
Call a doctor now if:
Seek care soon if:
Your pregnancy health professional may be the first person to note and diagnose postpartum depression. This is one of many reasons why it's important to have a medical check 3 to 6 weeks after childbirth.
As part of your postpartum checkup, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your moods and emotions. Be sure to tell your doctor about any feelings of "baby blues" at your first checkup after the baby is born. Your doctor will want to follow up with you to see how you are feeling.
Your doctor may check your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. This helps make sure a thyroid problem isn't causing any depression symptoms.
Ask your doctor and family members to watch you closely if you're at higher risk for postpartum depression. For example, you may be at higher risk if:
If you have an increased risk for postpartum depression, follow up with your doctor or midwife 1 to 3 weeks after you give birth.
Treatment choices include:
It can give you emotional support and help with problem solving and goal setting. Others in your family may also benefit from counseling.
It relieves symptoms for most people. Antidepressants are typically used for 6 months or longer. They're taken first to treat postpartum depression and then to prevent symptoms from coming back. Your doctor may recommend that you take medicine for up to a year before you think about stopping it. If you've had several bouts of depression, you may need to take medicine for a long time.
Doctors recommend that people with moderate to severe postpartum depression combine counseling with medicine. Those with mild depression may get better from counseling alone. Your doctor may recommend a licensed counselor who specializes in treating postpartum depression. To effectively treat depression, it's important that you and your counselor have a comfortable relationship.
Getting regular exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep may also help you feel better. Support from family or other mothers may also help.
Some people with postpartum depression may try complementary and alternative treatments (CAM), like vitamins or supplements, to help with symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you are thinking about trying a CAM treatment.
You can still breastfeed while taking certain antidepressants.
Treating depression is very important for you and your baby. And breastfeeding is good for your baby's health. It's also good for your baby's bond with you.
If you are worried about taking an antidepressant while breastfeeding, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits. Antidepressants can be helpful and generally have little risk for your baby while breastfeeding.
Here are some tips for taking good care of yourself when you have postpartum depression.
Ask them to call you often. Isolation can make depression worse, especially when it's combined with the stress of caring for a newborn.
Keep your shades and curtains open. And get outside as much as you can.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine. If you don't feel hungry, eat small snacks throughout the day.
Exercise helps improve mood.
Family and friends are often happy to help a mother with a newborn.
And get as much rest and sleep as you can. Fatigue can increase depression.
To find a support group in your area, talk to your doctor. Or go to the website for Postpartum Support International at www.postpartum.net for more information.
Current as of:
February 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Patrice Burgess MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineLisa S. Weinstock MD - Psychiatry
Current as of: February 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Patrice Burgess MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Lisa S. Weinstock MD - Psychiatry
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