Postpartum (After Birth) Depression
Although the birth of a new baby often brings feelings of joy, new mothers also feel anxious, worried, and sad during the first months after having the baby. It is normal to feel overwhelmed about the changes and stresses that come along with being a new parent. Knowing the reasons for these feelings and learning ways to cope improves the health of the mother as well as how she relates to her child. Feelings after giving birth run the spectrum from the blues to severe depression. The milder forms are the most common.
Types of Postpartum Depression
50%-75% of women have a feeling of letdown after giving birth. This is the most common and mild response. Often, women feel weepy, scared, anxious, and lonely for a short time in the first few weeks after their baby is born. Women can have changes in eating as well as trouble sleeping. Although the “blues” are usually short term, sometimes a more severe, longer depression occurs.
This occurs in about 10% of women after birth. Symptoms often occur in the first few weeks after birth, but can occur even up to a year after.
- Low self worth
- Hard to focus on tasks
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of pleasure in sex and work
- Very anxious
- Extra worry about the baby
- Fear that prevents you from doing normal things such as taking the baby in the car
- Crying often
- Feeling crabby
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor or nurse-midwife.
This is rare form and occurs in about 1 in 1000 women within the first few weeks after giving birth. Symptoms include severe agitation, trouble sleeping, hallucinations (seeing things) and bizarre actions. This is an emergency. Women with these symptoms should be seen right away by a doctor or nurse-midwife.
Although any new mother can have depression after giving birth, there are certain risk factors that increase your chance of severe depression after birth.
- Depression or other psychiatric illness in the past
- Troubled pregnancy or unplanned Cesarean-birth
- Unplanned or pregnancy that was not wanted
- Marriage problems
- Lack of sleep
- Physical abuse in the past
- Loss of a loved one in the past year
- Infant with health problems
- More than 2 children under five years old
- Recent loss of support, such as husband going to work full-time or other helper leaves
- Past abortions, adoptions
Coping Skills that are helpful for “blues”, depression, or psychosis
Although anti-depressant medicines can be useful for many women there are other things that some women also find helpful.
- Join a support group for new parents or find other new mothers with the same concerns.
- Go outdoors (with and without the baby) when the weather permits.
- Make an effort to talk with other adults each day, such as other women who have been depressed and now enjoy being a mother.
- Find a type of exercise you enjoy, and try to do it as often as you can.
- Take time out just for you every day.
- Enlist the help of your partner. Take turns getting up at night to take care of the baby.
- Talk over your concerns with your partner, and ask for respite and support.
- Discuss diet changes with your doctor or nurse-midwife.
If these don’t help your mood, it may be a sign that you need outside help. There are many people who can help: your nurse-midwife, doctor, therapists, women’s centers, and clergy.
Asking for help is the best thing you can do to help you and your baby.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 10/09/2009
Copyright © 10/09/2009 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5112
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