Postpartum Depression: Struggling With ‘New Mom’ Emotions?
It’s normal to feel tired and stressed after you have a baby. But you shouldn’t continue to feel sad or angry as time passes. Learn more about the signs of postpartum depression.
It’s normal to feel like you’re riding an emotional roller coaster for a couple of few weeks after your baby is born.
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But those wild mood swings should gradually even out. You may feel tired and stressed, but you shouldn’t cry, or feel sad or angry, all the time.
When the “baby blues” start morphing into postpartum depression, it’s time to seek help.
Between 50 and 75 percent of new moms get the “baby blues.” But just one in 10 develops postpartum depression.
“Baby blues are very common and last a short time — about two weeks,” says Ob/Gyn Mary Taylor, MD. “Postpartum depression symptoms are more severe, last longer and affect your ability to function on a daily basis.”
Here’s what you need to know about identifying and treating postpartum depression.
If’ you’re suffering from postpartum depression, you may experience frequent bouts of crying or chronic feelings of sadness, anger or guilt. Some women notice a decreased appetite, fatigue or insomnia.
Here’s an example: It’s common for new moms to worry about the well-being of their infant. But if you’re so terrified that you can’t leave your napping baby’s bedside, that’s a sign of postpartum depression.
“Not everyone shows all these symptoms,” Dr. Taylor notes.
Your symptoms may appear soon after your baby’s birth or at any time during the first year, she says.
If you have a history of depression, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or postpartum depression with an earlier pregnancy, your risk for postpartum depression is higher.
Other risk factors may include:
Most doctors screen for depression during your pregnancy, then again for postpartum depression at your first post-delivery checkup (typically at six weeks), Dr. Taylor says.
She talks to patients and uses the short screening test called Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“If a woman tests positive during pregnancy screening, I encourage her to see a therapist before it becomes a bigger problem,” Dr. Taylor says.
Typically, though, postpartum depression is first diagnosed at the first checkup after delivery.
The good news is that, with help, most women can overcome postpartum depression and feel better.
In rare cases, however, postpartum psychosis — a severe form of postpartum depression that includes hallucinations and suicidal or homicidal thoughts — can develop. Postpartum psychosis requires immediate medical attention.
The important thing is to reach out for help if you suspect you have a problem.
“You may think what you are going through is normal, but if you are struggling, it’s not normal,” Dr. Taylor says. “Call us. We’re here to help.”