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What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?

You deserve and need to take care of yourself after having a baby. It’s okay to ask for help or seek treatment if you’re feeling the symptoms of postpartum depression.

Mother and baby, symptoms of postpartum depression

What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is a common illness that can happen after giving birth. It can begin right after the baby is born, or up to a year later. Postpartum depression can make it hard to do everyday tasks, take care of yourself, or take care of your baby.  

Many new moms go through “baby blues”—mood swings, irritability, crying spells, or anxiety that fade within a week or two. But for some new moms, the symptoms are more intense or don’t go away.

What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?

You may have postpartum depression if you have several of the symptoms listed below, if the symptoms are intense, and if they occur each day for more than two weeks:

  • Feelings of sadness that last most of the day
  • Frequent crying
  • Lack of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Severe tiredness or wanting to sleep all the time
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in people and activities
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Negative feelings about the baby
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby
  • Intense anger, anxiety, or irritability
  • Feeling confused, seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, or having thoughts that don’t make sense

Postpartum depression is an illness caused by chemicals in the brain—it’s not a reflection on your character or your parenting. It can be treated so that you can feel better and enjoy your baby.  

Related: Tips to Maintain Your Mental Health after Baby

How is postpartum depression diagnosed and treated?

To diagnose postpartum depression, a doctor will talk with you about your symptoms and may ask you to fill out a questionnaire. It can help to bring a family member or friend to the appointment to give perspective and support.  

Your doctor might recommend medicine, counseling, or both. If the symptoms are severe or dangerous, treatment might involve a short hospital stay or additional therapies.

Without treatment, postpartum depression can last up to a year or longer. But with treatment, you can begin to feel better within a few weeks or months. The earlier you get treatment, the faster you recover.  

Related: The Difference Between Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues

How can I best take care of myself?

Along with getting treatment, there are other ways you can speed your recovery. You need and deserve to take good care of yourself during this time. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Stay close to people who can support you. Don’t shut out concerned family and friends. Talk to them about how you’re feeling. Let them help in practical ways.
  • Don’t be alone. If your depression symptoms are severe, ask a family member or friend to stay with you if your partner has to go to work.
  • Try to get some physical activity every day. For example, taking a walk outdoors with your baby can help your mood.
  • Take it easy on yourself. Don’t worry about getting everything done. Try to get enough sleep, make healthy food choices, and make time for yourself.  

Related: The Stigma of Addressing Postpartum Depression  

What about future pregnancies?

If you’ve had an episode of postpartum depression, you have a higher risk of having it again after future pregnancies. As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, tell your doctor about your history of postpartum depression. And prepare ahead of time so you have a support system in place.  

When should I call my doctor?

Call your doctor if you have any symptoms for more than a couple of weeks, if they’re getting worse, or if they make it hard to do everyday tasks.

Go to an emergency room or call 911 if you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. Don’t wait for things to get better on their own. The safety of you and your baby is at stake, so seek emergency help.

If you or someone you know is at risk, seek help.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

24-hours/day: 800-273-TALK (8255)

suicidepreventionlifeline.org

You deserve to feel well. If you need help finding a doctor, our Member Advocates can help. They can help you find the right doctor and make an appointment. Reach our Member Advocates at 800-515-2220.

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