Understanding Postpartum Depression

You’ve just had a baby. You know you should be excited and happy. But instead you find yourself crying for no reason. You may have trouble coping with your daily tasks. You feel sad, tired, and hopeless most of the time. You may even feel ashamed or guilty. But what you’re going through is not your fault and you can feel better. Talk to your doctor. He or she can help.

Woman sitting on bed looking over at new born in crib.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that affects the way you think and feel. The most common symptom is a feeling of deep sadness. You may also feel as if you just can’t cope with life. Other symptoms include:

  • Gaining or losing a lot of weight

  • Sleeping too much or too little

  • Feeling tired all the time

  • Feeling restless

  • Fears of harming your baby

  • Lack of interest in your baby

  • Feeling worthless or guilty

  • No longer finding pleasure in things you used to

  • Having trouble thinking clearly or making decisions

  • Thinking about death or suicide

Depression After Childbirth

You may be weepy and tired right after giving birth. These feelings are normal. They’re sometimes called the “baby blues.” These blues go away after 2 or 3 weeks. However, postpartum (meaning “after birth”) depression lasts much longer and is more severe than the "baby blues". It can make you feel sad and hopeless. You may also fear that your baby will be harmed and worry about being a bad mother.

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

The exact cause of postpartum depression isn’t known. It may be due to changes in your hormones during and after childbirth. You may also be tired from caring for your baby and adjusting to being a mother. All these factors may make you feel depressed. In some cases, your genes may also play a role.

Depression Can Be Treated

The good news is that there are many ways to treat postpartum depression. Talking to your doctor is the first step toward feeling better.

Resources

  • National Institute of Mental Health

    866-615-6464

    www.nimh.nih.gov

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness

    800-950-6264

    www.nami.org

  • Mental Health America

    800-969-6642

    www.nmha.org

  • National Suicide Hotline

    800-784-2433 (800-SUICIDE)

Online Medical Reviewer: Finn, Barbara, PhD
Online Medical Reviewer: Li, Descartes, MD
Last Review Date: 1/26/2012
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