Postpartum depression is a type of depression that happens after having a baby. It affects up to 15% of people. People with postpartum depression experience emotional highs and lows, frequent crying, fatigue, guilt, anxiety and may have trouble caring for their baby. Postpartum depression can be treated with medication and counseling.
Having a baby is a life-changing experience. Being a parent is exciting but can also be tiring and overwhelming. It's normal to have feelings of worry or doubt, especially if you are a first-time parent. However, if your feelings include extreme sadness or loneliness, severe mood swings and frequent crying spells, you may have postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a type of depression that happens after someone gives birth. Postpartum depression doesn't just affect the birthing person. It can affect surrogates and adoptive parents, too. People experience hormonal, physical, emotional, financial and social changes after having a baby. These changes can cause symptoms of postpartum depression.
If you have postpartum depression, know that you are not alone, it's not your fault and that help is out there. Your healthcare provider can manage your symptoms and help you feel better.
There are three different types of postpartum mood disorders:
The baby blues affect between 50% and 75% of people after delivery. If you're experiencing the baby blues, you will have frequent, prolonged bouts of crying for no apparent reason, sadness and anxiety. The condition usually begins in the first week (one to four days) after delivery. Although the experience is unpleasant, the condition usually subsides within two weeks without treatment. The best thing you can do is find support and ask for help from friends, family or your partner.
Postpartum depression is a far more serious condition than the baby blues, affecting about 1 in 7 new parents. If you've had postpartum depression before, your risk increases to 30% each pregnancy. You may experience alternating highs and lows, frequent crying, irritability and fatigue, as well as feelings of guilt, anxiety and inability to care for your baby or yourself. Symptoms range from mild to severe and may appear within a week of delivery or gradually, even up to a year later. Although symptoms can last several months, treatment with psychotherapy or antidepressants is very effective.
Postpartum psychosis is an extremely severe form of postpartum depression and requires emergency medical attention. This condition is relatively rare, affecting only 1 in 1,000 people after delivery. The symptoms generally occur quickly after delivery and are severe, lasting for a few weeks to several months. Symptoms include severe agitation, confusion, feelings of hopelessness and shame, insomnia, paranoia, delusions or hallucinations, hyperactivity, rapid speech or mania. Postpartum psychosis requires immediate medical attention since there is an increased risk of suicide and risk of harm to the baby. Treatment will usually include hospitalization, psychotherapy and medication.
Postpartum depression is common. As many as 75% of people experience baby blues after delivery. Up to 15% of these people will develop postpartum depression. One in 1,000 people develop postpartum psychosis.
Many people have baby blues after giving birth. Baby blues and postpartum depression have similar symptoms. However, symptoms of baby blues last about 10 days and are less intense. With postpartum depression, the symptoms last weeks or months, and the symptoms are more severe.
You may have the baby blues if you:
Remember, it doesn't hurt to share your symptoms with your provider. They can assess if you need treatment for your symptoms.
Postpartum depression can last until one year after your child is born. However, this doesn't mean you should feel "cured" in one year. Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms and treatment. Be honest about how you feel. Think carefully about if you feel better than you did at the beginning of your diagnosis. Then, they can recommend ongoing treatment for your symptoms.
Certain factors increase your risk for postpartum depression:
Some people feel ashamed about their symptoms or feel they are terrible parents for feeling the way they do. Postpartum depression is extremely common. You're not the only person who feels this way, and it doesn't mean you're a bad person.
You may have postpartum depression if you experience some of the following:
Contact your healthcare provider if you think you have postpartum depression. This can be your obstetrician, primary care provider or mental health provider. Your baby's pediatrician can also help you.
More research is needed to determine the link between the rapid drop in hormones after delivery and depression. The levels of estrogen and progesterone increase tenfold during pregnancy but drop sharply after delivery. By three days postpartum, levels of these hormones drop back to pre-pregnancy levels.
In addition to these chemical changes, the social and psychological changes associated with having a baby increase your risk of postpartum depression. Examples of these changes include physical changes to your body, lack of sleep, worries about parenting or changes to your relationships.
Yes, postpartum depression can affect your baby. Getting treatment is important for both you and your baby.
Research suggests that postpartum depression can affect your baby in the following ways:
There is not a specific test that diagnoses postpartum depression. Your healthcare provider will evaluate you at your postpartum visit. This visit may include discussing your health history, how you’ve felt since delivery, a physical exam, pelvic exam and lab tests. Many providers schedule visits at two or three weeks postpartum to screen for depression. This ensures you get the help you need as soon as possible.
They may do a depression screening or ask you a series of questions to assess if you have postpartum depression. They'll ask how you're feeling and how your baby is doing. Be open and honest with your provider to ensure they get an accurate picture of your emotions and thoughts. They can help distinguish if your feelings are typical or symptoms of postpartum depression.
Your healthcare provider may order a blood test because postpartum depression can cause symptoms similar to many thyroid conditions.
Remember, your healthcare provider is there to support you and make sure you are healthy, so be honest with them. There is no judgment, and you aren’t alone in your feelings.
It can be hard to detect mild cases of postpartum depression. Healthcare providers rely heavily on your responses to their questions.
Many healthcare providers use the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to screen for postpartum depression. It consists of 10 questions related to symptoms of depression such as feeling unhappy, anxious or guilty. You're asked to check the response that comes closest to how you've felt the last seven days. A higher score indicates possible postpartum depression.
If your provider feels you have signs of postpartum depression, they will recommend an appropriate treatment.
Postpartum depression is treated differently depending on the type and severity of your symptoms. Treatment options include anti-anxiety or antidepressant medicines, psychotherapy (talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy) and support group participation.
Treatment for postpartum psychosis may include medication to treat depression, anxiety and psychosis. You may also be admitted to a treatment center for several days until you're stable. If you don't respond to this treatment, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be effective.
If you are breastfeeding (chestfeeding), don't assume that you can't take medicine for depression, anxiety or even psychosis. Talk to your healthcare provider about your options.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe antidepressants to manage symptoms of postpartum depression. Antidepressants help balance the chemicals in your brain that affect your mood.
If you're breastfeeding, talk to your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of taking an antidepressant. Medications can transfer to your baby through your milk. However, the transfer level is generally low, and many antidepressant medications are considered safe. Your provider can help you decide what medicine is right for you based on your symptoms and if you're nursing.
Some common antidepressants for postpartum depression are:
Keep in mind that it takes at least three or four weeks for antidepressants to work. Talk to your healthcare provider before stopping the medication. Stopping your medication too soon can cause symptoms to return. Most providers will recommend reducing your dose before stopping completely.
If your provider detects postpartum depression while you’re still in the hospital, they may recommend IV medication containing brexanolone.
It's OK to feel overwhelmed. Parenting is full of ups and downs and having a baby isn't easy. If you have depression, you don't have to suffer alone. Your healthcare provider can help find a treatment that works for you.
Here are some things you can do to help cope with postpartum depression:
Untreated postpartum depression is dangerous and affects you, your baby and those who love you. It can make you:
Postpartum depression isn't entirely preventable. It helps to know warning signs of the condition and what factors increase your risk. Here are some tips that can help prevent postpartum depression:
With professional help, almost all people who experience postpartum depression can overcome their symptoms.
You should seek professional help when:
For immediate help or if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else:
Postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression share some symptoms, but they are different conditions. Excessive worrying, feeling panicky for no reason and having irrational fears or obsessions are all signs of postpartum anxiety. It's important to discuss all your symptoms with your healthcare provider so they can get you the help you need.
Yes, both partners can have symptoms of postpartum depression. You and your partner need to seek medical care if you have signs of depression or anxiety after bringing home your baby. An estimated 4% of partners experience depression in the first year after their child's birth.
Postpartum dysphoria is another name for baby blues. It begins during the first week after childbirth and goes away without medical treatment within several days.
People with postpartum depression need lots of support. Here are some ways you can help:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Postpartum depression is a common mood disorder that affects 1 in 7 people after giving birth. It's not your fault, and you did nothing to cause it. It doesn't make you a bad parent or a bad person. The biological, physical and chemical factors that cause PPD are beyond your control. Signs of postpartum depression include feeling sad or worthless, losing interest in things you once enjoyed, excessive crying and mood swings. Talk to your healthcare provider if you think you have postpartum depression. They can figure out how to best manage your symptoms. Counseling, medication or joining a support group can help.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/12/2022.
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