What Is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression (PPD), also known as postnatal depression, is a condition that is characterized by feelings of depression and depression-related symptoms following childbirth. The mood disorder can make it difficult for new mothers to manage the day-to-day tasks of life, including caring for a newborn.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

The symptoms of postpartum depression are broad and can vary between women but mirror those of depression, and include:

  • Mood swings (irritability or restlessness);
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness or anxiety;
  •  Experiencing anger or rage;
  • Crying;
  • Eating too little or overeating;
  • Doubting one’s ability to care for their newborn; and
  • In extreme cases, even having thoughts of self-harm or thoughts of harming the newborn baby.

Postpartum depression can be very difficult for everyone in a family, including the mother, partner, newborn, and any other children.

Who Gets Postpartum Depression?

Doctors are not exactly sure why some women get postpartum depression and others do not; it affects approximately 1 in 8 of women during the first months after childbirth. However, there are some risk factors that increase the chances that a woman may develop postpartum depression, including a history of depression, the occurrence of a stressful life event outside of the birth, lack of support, substance abuse problems, a family history of mental health disorders, and complications during birth.

What You Should Do If You Think You Have Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a lot different from what has been termed the “baby blues,” which refers to situations in which new mothers are generally fatigued, stressed, and nervous about their new position as a mom. This is normal; postpartum depression is more severe, and the feelings of anxiety can be so severe that they actually interfere with a new mom’s ability to live life normally or care for herself or her child. Women who have experienced postpartum depression describe feelings of guilt and isolation.

If you think that you or a loved one may have postpartum depression, you should seek help immediately, as in very serious cases postpartum depression can be dangerous. Usually, postpartum depression is treated with counseling/talk therapy or psychiatric therapy, or medication. Women may also use other techniques, such as meditation, to help themselves manage depressive symptoms. If left untreated, postpartum depression could last for months or even years. In addition to affecting the mother’s well-being, it could affect the baby/child’s behavior as well.

You Are Not a “Bad Mother”

Having postpartum depression is something that many women deal with, and it does not make a person a “bad” mother. It is a mental health condition that should be taken seriously and treated, and with care, can be remedied. Family members and friends may recognize the signs of postpartum depression and should encourage the new mother to speak with a health care provider about her options. They should also offer emotional support and assist with caring for the baby if at all possible.


For more information, visit http://www.mentalhealth.gov (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services) or http://www.nimh.nih.gov (National Institute of Mental Health).