Postpartum depression

The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in something you might not expect — depression.

Many new moms experience the "baby blues" after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings and crying spells that fade quickly. But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. Rarely, an extreme form of postpartum depression known as postpartum psychosis develops after childbirth.

Postpartum depression isn't a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it's simply a complication of giving birth. If you have postpartum depression, prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms — and enjoy your baby.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Signs and symptoms of depression after childbirth vary, depending on the type of depression.

Baby blues symptoms

Signs and symptoms of the baby blues — which last only a few days to a week or two — may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Crying
  • Decreased concentration
  • Trouble sleeping

Postpartum depression symptoms

Postpartum depression may appear to be the baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and longer lasting, eventually interfering with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Postpartum depression symptoms may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Lack of joy in life
  • Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Severe mood swings
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.

Postpartum psychosis

With postpartum psychosis — a rare condition that typically develops within the first two weeks after delivery — the signs and symptoms are even more severe. Signs and symptoms of postpartum psychosis may include:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Attempts to harm yourself or your baby

When to see a doctor

If you're feeling depressed after your baby's birth, you may be reluctant or embarrassed to admit it. But it's important to call your doctor if the signs and symptoms of depression have any of these features:

  • Don't fade after two weeks
  • Are getting worse
  • Make it hard for you to care for your baby
  • Make it hard to complete everyday tasks
  • Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

If you suspect that you're developing postpartum psychosis, seek medical attention immediately. Don't wait and hope for improvement. Postpartum psychosis may lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors.

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