Life shouldn’t get any better than when you finally have your new baby home with you, right? While the long awaited arrival should make you feel happy and blissful, the truth is that some 9 to 16 percent of women show the signs of postpartum depression after childbirth.*
Many new moms feel guilty if they don’t feel like having their new baby home is the happiest time of their lives. But there shouldn’t be any guilt associated with experiencing postpartum blues (“baby blues”). During pregnancy, levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are sky-high and after delivering a baby and the placenta, they drastically plummet, triggering the baby blues. Combine the change in hormones with an exhausting delivery and your new role of caretaker, and it’s no wonder so many moms experience postpartum mood changes.
What are the baby blues
Within a week of childbirth, some women begin to feel depressed, anxious and upset, even angry with the new baby, their partners or other children. They also may also:
- Cry for no clear reason;
- Have trouble sleeping, eating and making choices; and
- Question whether they can handle caring for a baby.
These feelings, often called the postpartum blues, may come and go in the first few days after childbirth.
What is postpartum depression
Having the baby blues is different from the more intense postpartum depression. Women experiencing postpartum depression have intense feelings of sadness, anxiety or despair that prevent them from being able to do their daily tasks. While it most commonly starts about 1–3 weeks after childbirth, postpartum depression can occur up to 1 year after having a baby.
Causes of postpartum depression
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, postpartum depression is caused by a combination of factors, including:
- Hormones—Levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease sharply in the hours after childbirth. These changes may trigger depression in the same way that smaller changes in hormone levels trigger mood swings and tension before menstrual periods.
- History of depression—Women who have had depression at any time—before, during, or after pregnancy—or who currently are being treated for depression have an increased risk of developing postpartum depression.
- Emotional factors—Feelings of doubt about pregnancy are common. If the pregnancy is not planned or is not wanted, this can affect the way a woman feels about her pregnancy and her unborn baby. Even when a pregnancy is planned, it can take a long time to adjust to the idea of having a new baby. Parents of babies who are sick or who need to stay in the hospital may feel sad, angry or guilty. These emotions can affect a woman’s self-esteem and how she deals with stress.
- Fatigue—Many women feel very tired after giving birth and it can take weeks for a woman to regain her normal strength and energy.
- Lifestyle factors—Lack of support from others and stressful life events can greatly increase the risk of postpartum depression.
Signs of postpartum depression
Knowing postpartum depression symptoms is critical in getting the help and support you need in a timely manner. Signs of postpartum depression include:
- Restlessness, anger or irritability
- Sadness, feel like crying a lot
- Worthlessness or guilt
- Fear of hurting your baby or yourself
- Overly worried about the baby or not concerned about the baby at all
- Little or no energy
- Headaches, chest pains, rapid heartbeat, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, or fast and shallow breathing
- Trouble sleeping
- Poor eating habits
- Trouble focusing, remembering or making decisions
- Little interest in things you used to enjoy
Treatment for postpartum depression
If you or your family members think you’re showing signs of postpartum depression, see your health care provider as soon as possible. Do not wait until your postpartum checkup. Your healthcare provider will talk with you and evaluate your symptoms of concern.
Support for postpartum depression
The hospital where you gave birth or your health care provider will be able to assist you in finding a support group. These websites also provide useful information about postpartum depression:
- National Women’s Health Information Center
- Postpartum Support International
- Medline Plus
Although a majority of women find the transition to motherhood a time of tremendous joy, very few can deny that it is also challenging, especially in the first few weeks. By understanding the signs of the baby blues and postpartum depression, you can more quickly address any concerns so that you can move on to the joyful and happy feelings of motherhood.
If you have any questions about prenatal or postpartum care, feel free to contact us for more information or schedule a new patient consultation to discuss your particular situation. You can also download the guide, “Prenatal Care Visits – From Pre-Conception to Labor & Deliver.
About the Practice
Dr. John Garofalo, M.D., is an ob-gyn located in Fairfield County, Connecticut. He has more than 20 years of practice and surgical experience covering many facets of obstetrics and gynecology.
Laury Berkwitt, APRN, is a nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Laury has a passion for providing quality women’s health care in a safe and comfortable manner by creating a trusting patient-practitioner relationship. She has been in practice for more than 10 years, caring for women of all ages.
For more information, go to www.garofaloobgyn.com. John Garofalo, MD, and Laury Berkwitt, APRN, can be reached for personal consultations by calling 203.803.1098.
- According to the American Psychological Association