Medically reviewed by Renita White, MD
Postpartum depression (PPD) refers to feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety that last for longer than two weeks after giving birth. Postpartum depression can occur at any time in the year following childbirth and usually happens within the first three months. It is a serious mental health condition that affects both your physical and mental health.
Some possible signs of postpartum depression include crying more than normal, angry outbursts, a loss of interest in favorite activities, and changes in sleep and appetite. It is estimated that 1 in 8 people experience postpartum depression after giving birth.
Help is available. Talk with your healthcare provider if you are concerned about your mood. This article will provide an overview of postpartum depression, including how it feels and how to recognize it in a loved one. It will also share treatment options and how to get help.
Getting Immediate Help
If you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, seek immediate help. To reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, call or text 988 or visit the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. You could also call 911 or go directly to your local emergency department.
Signs Someone May Have Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a serious condition that interferes with your daily life. People with postpartum depression often experience feelings of:
Feeling disconnected from or negative about their baby
Guilt about not being a good parent
Intense worry about their baby
Thoughts of self-harm
To recognize postpartum depression in a loved one, look for the following signs:
Crying more than usual
Fear of being alone with their baby
Loss of interest in favorite activities
Sleeping more or less than normal
Eating more or less than normal
Experiencing aches and pains
Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?
It can be hard to tell the difference between postpartum depression and baby blues. The term "baby blues" refers to the feelings of sadness, anxiety, and being overwhelmed that many new parents feel in the first few days after childbirth. The baby blues are very common and usually last for about two to three days. If these feelings persist for weeks, you may have postpartum depression.
Link Between Depression and Postpartum Period
The postpartum period is a unique time with serious challenges that can lead to depression. New parents are attempting to heal physically after childbirth while adjusting to a new role and less time for themselves. They are also usually sleep-deprived, which affects hormones and mood.
Having a baby usually comes with changes in your work and social relationships. People also experience a sudden change in hormones after giving birth. All of these factors contribute to an increased risk of depression.
Known risk factors for postpartum depression include:
Stressful life events
Low social support
History of depression
History of infertility
Having multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)
Young age (teen parent)
Use of drugs or alcohol
PPD After Miscarriage
It is possible to experience postpartum depression after a miscarriage (pregnancy loss). A 2022 study found that 59.1% of people were at an increased risk of depression after a miscarriage, and 48.9% were at a high risk of depression.
How to Tell If You Have PPD Symptoms
It can be challenging to recognize postpartum depression in yourself. You may be doubting yourself and your judgment right now.
It may be helpful to remember that feeling down and weepy for a few days after giving birth is normal. If you have been experiencing symptoms such as crying more than usual for over two weeks, you may have postpartum depression.
It is common to feel embarrassed or ashamed about these feelings. Some new parents fear that if they’re honest about how they’re feeling, people will judge them as a bad parent.
Postpartum depression is common and treatable. It does not make you a bad parent or mean that you do not love your baby. Help is available, so talk with your healthcare provider today.
Medications to Treat Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is treatable with therapy and medication. Your healthcare provider may recommend an antidepressant medication to improve your mood. These medications usually take about three to four weeks before you start noticing an improvement.
If you are breastfeeding or chestfeeding, your provider will recommend a medication that is safe for both you and your baby.
Antidepressant medications often used to treat postpartum depression include:
Medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to specifically treat postpartum depression include:
Zulresso (brexanolone): Given intravenously (IV) for two and a half days (60 hours) under the supervision of a healthcare provider
Zurzuvae (zuranolone): The first oral medication (pill) to be approved to treat postpartum depression
Signs Inpatient Treatment Is Needed
Postpartum depression is treatable, and most people who seek treatment begin to feel better. It is important to note that some people experience such severe postpartum depression that they need to be hospitalized or admitted to an inpatient treatment program.
Signs that you may require inpatient treatment include:
Thoughts of self-harm
Thoughts of harming your baby or other children
Inability to care for yourself or your baby
Inability to get out of bed or function in your daily life
Mental Health and Complementary Therapies During PPD Treatment
In addition to medication, complementary therapies are also helpful in treating postpartum depression. Once you have been diagnosed with postpartum depression, your healthcare provider will likely recommend meeting with a mental health provider to work on coping strategies and lifestyle changes to start improving your mood.
Look into meeting with a therapist or support group for new parents. Try to focus on self-care and look for social support where you can.
To start feeling better, consider taking some of the following actions:
Ask for help often.
Rest as much as possible.
Get out of the house when you can.
Talk honestly about your feelings.
Connect with other new parents.
Avoid making any major life changes.
Postpartum Depression Support: Where to Look
Postpartum depression can feel very isolating but there is support available. Research shows that the risk of PPD goes down when you discuss your mental health with your healthcare provider during your pregnancy. If you have been experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression for two weeks or more, call your healthcare provider.
If you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, call or text 988 for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. If you or the baby is in immediate danger, dial 911.
Postpartum depression is a serious mental health condition that occurs within the first year after childbirth. Postpartum depression causes feelings of sadness, anger, hopelessness, and anxiety. Signs of postpartum depression include sleeping more or less than usual, crying often, and having angry outbursts.
Fortunately, help is available. Talk with your healthcare provider if you are concerned about your mood. Treatment for postpartum depression includes medication, therapy, and self-care activities. Consider meeting with a therapist or support group.
If you experience any thoughts of harming yourself or your feelings, seek immediate help.
Read the original article on Verywell Health.