Many mothers, both first-time and veteran moms, feel down in the first days or weeks after childbirth. Often called the “baby blues,” these feelings are normal and generally go away after a short time.
But when a mom has intense, ongoing feelings of sadness, anxiety or hopelessness—feelings that interfere with her caring for herself or her baby—she may have postpartum depression (PPD).
PPD is not due to a personality or character flaw; it isn’t your fault. Consider it a complication of childbirth. It can happen early on, midway through or late in your first year with a new baby.
PPD isn’t rare, but it is treatable. Between 11% and 20% of U.S. mothers experience it, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms include frequent or ongoing:
- Sadness (including crying)
- Irritability or restlessness
- Withdrawal from loved ones or activities
- Loss of energy and motivation
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or guilt
- Extreme worry about the baby or feeling distant from the baby
A rare condition, postpartum psychosis, includes PPD symptoms together with strong thoughts of hurting oneself or the baby. If you have these feelings, seek medical help immediately.
Left untreated, postpartum depression can last for a few weeks or for many months. The cause isn’t known, though changing hormone levels during pregnancy and shortly after childbirth are thought to play a role.
If you have any of the above symptoms, or you suspect you may have PPD, talk with your healthcare provider, who can diagnose the disorder and help you get the right treatment.
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