Depression after pregnancy refers to the negative thinking and feelings of despondency that many women experience after the birth of a child. In addition to the sad, lifeless feelings that accompany any depression, women who suffer from depression after pregnancy often fear that their baby will somehow be harmed and may worry that they are "bad" mothers.
Depression after pregnancy may be mild, moderate, or severe, and may be temporary or long lasting. But it is treatable, manageable, and in some cases, preventable. Depression after pregnancy is generally divided into three types:
- The baby blues, also called maternity blues, natal blues, or postpartum blues, is a temporary "down" period common among new mothers. Tearfulness, fatigue, irritability, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, and other signs of the baby blues usually begin one to two days after birth and may last up to three weeks.
- Postpartum depression is a mood disorder characterized by negative thinking patterns and feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and despondency. Unlike the temporary baby blues, postpartum depression deepens and lasts beyond the first month after birth. The new mother may feel like she has fallen into a dark hole, have obsessive thoughts, and find herself unable to shake troublesome worries.
- Postpartum psychosis is a rare form of postpartum depression that affects one in every thousand women. It usually begins within three to ten days after a woman gives birth. These women experience a break with reality: they may lose weight quickly without dieting, go without sleep for more than 48 hours, or experience delusions and hallucinations. Postpartum psychosis is a crisis that requires immediate professional intervention.
Need To Know:
Although depression after pregnancy usually appears shortly after childbirth, it can begin at any time during the first year. If symptoms occur after the first months, they may be more subtle and difficult to detect. Spouses or family members may notice changes before the new mother does.
Nice To Know:
Q. Instead of feeling happy after my baby was born, I cried constantly and felt terribly anxious. What's normal and what's not?
A. Normal reactions include irritability, anger, crying, exhaustion, tension, restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia, all of which appear about three days after birth and may last for about two weeks. If these symptoms worsen and extend beyond a few weeks, you may be experiencing true postpartum depression and should consult a physician or other health care professional.
Q. I was fine for the first month after my baby was born. Then I began feeling terrible. Is this the baby blues?
A. At least half of new mothers get the baby blues, a mild form of depression that begins a few days or a week after delivery and usually lasts no more than two weeks. Since you started feeling low about six weeks after delivery, it may be true postpartum depression, which can last from two weeks to a year. It is less common, affecting 10 to 20 percent of new mothers. Best to consult your physician.
Facts about postpartum depression: