What Is Postpartum Depression?

How do you know the difference between normal sadness after childbirth and postpartum depression? Here’s a quick overview.

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a mental health disorder that can affect a woman after childbirth. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “mothers with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety and exhaustion that may make it difficult for them to complete daily care activities for themselves or for others.”

How is PPD different from the “baby blues”?

In the days just after giving birth, many women experience "baby blues," with symptoms that can include:
  • mood swings
  • sadness
  • crying spells
  • loss of appetite
  • sleeping problems
  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • loneliness

These symptoms — caused by wildly fluctuating hormones — are completely normal, not severe, and generally go away within a few days to a couple of weeks after birth.

For some women, however, these symptoms are far more intense and persist longer than a few weeks. In this case, the woman may be suffering from PPD. The difference between PPD and baby blues is that PPD can occur anytime in the year following birth, it affects a woman's well-being and long-term ability to function, and it's a serious disorder that requires medical attention.

Other signs of PPD may include:

  • a lack of interest in your new baby
  • thoughts of hurting yourself
  • fear of hurting your baby

If you experience any of the above feelings or have concerns that you may be suffering from PPD, please contact your provider immediately. Many options are available to treat PPD such as medication, therapy and support groups.

If you are living with PPD, you are not alone. Learn more about support groups in your area, or call Postpartum Support International’s Depression After Delivery hotline at 800-944-4773.

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