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.
Most new moms experience postpartum “baby blues” after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Baby blues typically begin within the first two to three days after delivery, and may last for up to two weeks.
But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. Rarely, an extreme mood disorder called postpartum psychosis also may develop 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 help you bond with your baby.
Signs and symptoms of baby blues — which last only a few days to a week or two after your baby is born — may include:
Depressed Mood or Severe Mood Swings
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
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
Diminished Ability to Think Clearly, Concentrate or mMake Decisions
Thoughts of Harming Yourself or Your Baby
Recurrent Thoughts of Death or Suicide
Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.
Treatment and recovery time vary, depending on the severity of your depression and your individual needs. If you have an underactive thyroid or an underlying illness, we may treat those conditions or refer you to the appropriate mental health specialist.
Postpartum depression is often treated with psychotherapy (also called talk therapy or mental health counseling), medication or both.
Psychotherapy. It may help to talk through your concerns with a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional. Through therapy, you can find better ways to cope with your feelings, solve problems, set realistic goals and respond to situations in a positive way. Sometimes family or relationship therapy also helps.
Antidepressants. Your doctor may recommend an antidepressant. If you’re breast-feeding, any medication you take will enter your breast milk. However, most antidepressants can be used during breast-feeding with little risk of side effects for your baby. Work with your doctor to weigh the potential risks and benefits of specific antidepressants.
With appropriate treatment, postpartum depression symptoms usually improve. In some cases, postpartum depression can continue, becoming chronic depression. It’s important to continue treatment after you begin to feel better. Stopping treatment too early may lead to a relapse.
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