Women’s Health Care Resources

Obstetrics Services

Depression During and After Pregnancy

Although having your baby can be a joyous time, many women feel sad, angry or anxious after childbirth. Sometimes these feelings are mild, often referred to as the “baby blues”. However, about 10% of new mothers have a more serious problem called postpartum depression where symptoms are usually more severe and last longer.

Baby blues: 70-80% of women have the baby blues where they feel sad, depressed and anxious after childbirth for no clear reason. These feelings often come and go in the first few days after delivery but resolve after a few days to a week without treatment.

Postpartum Depression: Women with postpartum depression have intense feelings of sadness, anxiety and anger to the point that they have trouble dealing with their daily tasks. Most commonly, this starts a few weeks after delivery. Postpartum depression is more likely to occur in women who suffered from postpartum depression in previous pregnancies, those who have a psychiatric illness or women who have had recent stressors such as loss of a loved one. Women with postpartum depression often need treatment with counseling and/or medication.

What Causes Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression can likely be attributed to a combination of body changes and hormone levels, emotional and lifestyle factors. The sharp decrease in estrogen and progesterone can trigger depression. New mothers rarely get the sleep they need, especially following delivery. Fatigue and lack of sleep, especially when persistent, can also contribute to depression.

Many emotions can affect a woman’s mood and predispose her to postpartum depression. A woman may feel guilty or ill prepared for motherhood or experience feelings of being tied down or trapped. These feelings are completely normal but may worsen your depression. Certain lifestyle factors including lack of support and difficulty with breastfeeding may also contribute.

Motherhood is not always instinctive. Mothering skills need to be learned and practiced. No mother is perfect so it is important to find a balance between caring for the baby, finding support from family, managing household duties/work and taking time for yourself.

When to Suspect You May Have Postpartum Depression:

Your baby blues do not fade after 1 week.

You are experiencing strong feelings of depression about 1-2 months after delivery.

Feelings of guilt, anger, inadequacy, and sadness appear to be getting worse and are interfering with your daily activities.

You cannot care for yourself or your baby.

You have trouble doing tasks around the house or at work.

You don’t find pleasure in things you once did.

You are no longer interested in your baby or you have intense concern or worry about your baby.

You are suffering from panic attacks and may not want to be left alone with your baby.

You fear you may harm your baby or yourself.


Other Tips

Try to get plenty of sleep. Nap when the baby naps.

Ask for help from family and friends.

Take care of yourself. Shower, get dressed and get ready each day.

Go for a walk to meet other new mothers.

Tell your partner or family how you feel.

Join a support group.

Remember that many mothers have these feelings and this does not mean you are a failure as a woman or a mother.

Call your doctor to discuss other treatment options.

For more information please visit the Mom’s Mental Health Initiative


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