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Depression: Managing Postpartum Depression


Table of Contents


Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.   Depression: Managing Postpartum Depression

If you have the "baby blues" after childbirth, you're not alone—about half of women have a few days of mild depression after having a baby. However unsettling, a certain amount of insomnia, irritability, tears, overwhelmed feelings, and mood swings are normal. Baby blues usually peak around the fourth postpartum day and subside in less than 2 weeks, when hormonal changes have settled down. But you can have bouts of baby blues throughout your baby's first year.

If your depressed feelings have lasted more than 2 weeks, your body isn't recovering from childbirth as expected. Postpartum depression:

To prevent serious problems for you and your baby, work with your doctor now to treat your symptoms.

If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself, your baby, or anyone else, see your doctor immediately or call 911 for emergency medical care.

Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  What is postpartum depression?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Why treat postpartum depression?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  How is postpartum depression treated?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Where to go from here

What? - What is the medical information or key concepts related to the action?  What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is more than a temporary feeling of sadness or lack of energy. It is a medical condition that occurs sometime in the first several months after childbirth. It seems to be triggered by normal hormonal changes after pregnancy. These hormonal changes are especially likely to lead to postpartum depression if you've had depression before, are under a lot of additional stress, or have poor support from your partner, friends, or family.

You probably have postpartum depression if you've had five or more of the following symptoms (including at least one of the first two symptoms) for most of each day over the past 2 weeks:1

  1. Depressed mood—tearfulness, hopelessness, and feeling empty inside, possibly with severe anxiety
  2. A significant loss of pleasure in either all or almost all of your daily activities
  3. Appetite and weight change—usually a drop in your appetite and weight, but sometimes the opposite
  4. Sleep problems—usually insomnia, even when your baby is sleeping
  5. Noticeable changes in how you walk and talk—usually restlessness, but sometimes sluggishness
  6. Extreme fatigue or loss of energy
  7. Feeling worthless or having inappropriate guilt
  8. Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  9. Thinking a lot about death or suicide

If you think you may have postpartum depression, take a short quiz to check your symptoms:

Interactive Tool: Are You Depressed?

Early treatment is important for both you and your baby.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. I know I'm supposed to be happy about having a baby, but I feel hopeless and unhappy. But I don't have all of the symptoms on the list. Should I see my doctor?

    1. Yes

      This answer is correct.

      You don't necessarily have all possible depression symptoms when you have depression. Regardless of how many symptoms you have, talk to your doctor sooner rather than later, before it gets worse.

    2. No

      This answer is incorrect.

      You don't necessarily have all possible depression symptoms when you have depression. Regardless of how many symptoms you have, talk to your doctor sooner rather than later, before it gets worse.


  2. I've never had a problem with depression before. Do I have any risk of postpartum depression?

    1. Yes

      This answer is correct.

      Every woman has a risk of postpartum depression during the first 3 months after childbirth. Women with a history of depression have an even greater risk.

    2. No

      This answer is incorrect.

      Every woman has a risk of postpartum depression during the first 3 months after childbirth. Women with a history of depression have an even greater risk.


Why? - Why the action is important?  Why treat postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression affects both you and your baby. It interferes with your ability to function normally, including caring for and bonding with your baby. Some babies of depressed mothers might lag behind developmentally in behavior and mental ability.

Antidepressant medicine and counseling are effective ways to treat postpartum depression. Some medicines are thought to be safe for use during breast-feeding.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. I'll get along just fine if I wait out postpartum depression.

    1. True

      This answer is incorrect.

      Depression can get much worse before it starts to get better on its own. The longer you wait, the harder it might be to seek treatment, and the harder your depression may be to treat.

    2. False

      This answer is correct.

      Depression can get much worse before it starts to get better on its own. The longer you wait, the harder it might be to seek treatment, and the harder your depression may be to treat.


How? - Learn the steps involved in taking action.  How is postpartum depression treated?

Depression is a medical condition that requires treatment. It's not a sign of weakness. Be honest with yourself and those who care about you. Tell them about your struggle. You, your doctor, and your friends and family can team up to treat your postpartum depression symptoms.

Talk to your doctor about your postpartum depression (PPD) symptoms, and decide what type of treatment is right for you. (You may also have your thyroid function checked, to make sure a thyroid problem isn't causing your symptoms.)

Treatment options

Breast-feeding babies whose mothers take an antidepressant do not often have side effects. But they can. If you are taking an antidepressant while breast-feeding, talk to your doctor and your baby's doctor about what types of side effects to look for.

Home treatment measures

Test Your Knowledge

  1. If I'm not willing to take an antidepressant medicine, there's really no point in talking to my doctor.

    1. True

      This answer is incorrect.

      Your doctor needs to know how you're doing to best help you and your baby thrive, and he or she may want to rule out another medical condition that could be contributing to your symptoms. If you decide on counseling instead of medicine, ask your doctor to recommend a good licensed counselor whom you can work with.

    2. False

      This answer is correct.

      Your doctor needs to know how you're doing to best help you and your baby thrive, and he or she may want to rule out another medical condition that could be contributing to your symptoms. If you decide on counseling instead of medicine, ask your doctor to recommend a good licensed counselor whom you can work with.


  2. I have an antidepressant that I took before pregnancy, but I should check with my doctor before I take it again for postpartum depression.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      Talk to your doctor before you take any medicine after having your baby, especially if you are breast-feeding. You may be more sensitive to medicine side effects during your postpartum period and may need a lower dose than before. Some medicines are considered relatively safe for your baby during breast-feeding, but others are not. Your doctor will know the best type of medicine for you.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      Talk to your doctor before you take any medicine after having your baby, especially if you are breast-feeding. You may be more sensitive to medicine side effects during your postpartum period and may need a lower dose than before. Some medicines are considered relatively safe for your baby during breast-feeding, but others are not. Your doctor will know the best type of medicine for you.


Where? - Other resources and organizations that can help you take action.  Where to go from here

Now that you have read this information about postpartum depression, you can take action, work with your doctor, and ask family and friends to support you along the way.

References

Citations

  1. O'Hara MW, Segre LS (2008). Psychologic disorders of pregnancy and the postpartum period. In RS Gibbs et al., eds., Danforth's Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th ed., pp. 504–514. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Other Works Consulted

Credits for Depression: Managing Postpartum Depression

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
Last Revised March 8, 2012

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