Whether it’s your first or third, the birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. Many of these emotions are caused by physical changes including changes in hormones, interrupted (and lack of) sleep and a change in diet and physical activity.
In fact, most new moms experience postpartum “baby blues” after childbirth. Symptoms commonly include mood swings, crying spells, reduced concentration, irritability and sadness. Baby blues typically begin within the first two to three days after delivery and may last for up to two weeks.
When emotions are beyond the common “baby blues.”
However, some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. Postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer. They may eventually interfere with an ability to care for one’s baby and handle other daily tasks.
Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but may begin earlier during pregnancy, or later — up to a year after birth. Signs and symptoms of depression after childbirth vary and can range from mild to severe.
Postpartum depression signs and symptoms may include:
• Depressed mood or severe mood swings
• Excessive crying
• Difficulty bonding with your baby
• Withdrawing from family and friends
• Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
• Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
• Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
• Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
• Intense irritability and anger
• Fear that you’re not a good mother
• Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
• Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
• Severe anxiety and panic attacks
• Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
• Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
If you’re feeling depressed after your baby’s birth, you may be reluctant or embarrassed to admit it. Postpartum depression isn’t a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it’s simply a complication of giving birth.
When to see a doctor.
If you experience any symptoms of postpartum baby blues or postpartum depression, call your doctor and schedule an appointment. If you have postpartum depression, prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms and help you bond with your baby.
If at any point you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby call 911.
Rarely, an extreme mood disorder called postpartum psychosis also may develop after childbirth. This rare condition has severe signs and symptoms which may include:
• Confusion and disorientation
• Obsessive thoughts about your baby
• Hallucinations and delusions
• Sleep disturbances
• Excessive energy and agitation
• Attempts to harm yourself or your baby
If at any point you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, immediately seek help from your partner or loved ones in taking care of your baby and call 911 or your local emergency assistance number to get help.
Helping a friend or loved one
People with depression may not recognize or acknowledge that they’re depressed. They may not be aware of signs and symptoms of depression. If you suspect that a friend or loved one has postpartum depression or is developing postpartum psychosis, help them seek medical attention and understand that help is available.