All About Postpartum Depression: Signs, Symptoms and Prevention

All About Postpartum Depression: Signs, Symptoms and Prevention

 It's Maternal Mental Health Month, so I'm spotlighting postpartum and perinatal anxiety and depression. As a nurse, doula and Lamaze teacher who has worked with new moms for over 25 years, I know how important maternal mental health is to the well-being of you and your newborn baby.

You may have had an easy pregnancy or a hard one. Maybe you tried for years to have this baby and your pregnancy has been full of love, hope and gratitude. When you finally give birth, you’re among the 80 percent of new moms who will experience some type of postpartum mood disorder.

That AHA Moment After Birth

Feeling disappointed after you give birth is normal for a lot of women, no matter how hard they tried to get pregnant and how badly they wanted their baby. If you're wondering about four other things that first-time moms wished they'd known before they gave birth, click HERE.

Postpartum depression can be caused by several different factors. After you have a baby, your levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop dramatically and fast, which can result in you feeling tired, depressed and with little energy.


    The sheer exhaustion of becoming a mom and getting broken sleep can make even the smallest issues feel like the sky is falling. You may also be feeling disappointed with your baby, your birth or your body and these feelings can all be factors in postpartum depression.

    There are three types of mood disorders that can happen after childbirth: baby blues, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.


    Are you at risk of postpartum depression?

    infographic for postpartum depression risk factors 


    Postpartum Depression Risk Factors 

    • A history of depression, either before or during pregnancy

    • You have bipolar disorder

    • You experienced postpartum depression after a previous pregnancy

    • A family history of depression or other mood disorders

    • Stressful events during the past year, such as pregnancy complications, relationship issues, work problems and financial worries

    • Your baby has health problems or special needs

    • Having multiples at birth: twins, triplets

    • Breastfeeding issues

    • Lack of a support system

    • An unplanned pregnancy


    Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Mood Disorders

    Signs and symptoms of depression after childbirth vary, and they can range from mild to severe.

    Baby Blues Symptoms

    The baby blues only last a few days to a week or two after your birth. The signs and symptoms of baby blues may include:

    • Mood swings

    • Anxiety

    • Irritability

    • Sadness

    • Feeling overwhelmed

    • Crying

    • Difficulty Concentrating

    • Loss of interest in eating

    • Trouble sleeping even though you’re exhausted

    Symptoms of Postpartum Depression (PPD)

    At first, postpartum depression symptoms may be mistaken for baby blues. But here’s the thing about PPD:  the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer. You may find it hard to get out of bed and get dressed. You may also find it tough to look after your baby because the symptoms of postpartum depression are much more severe than the baby blues. Symptoms usually show up within the first few weeks after having your baby, but sometimes it can start during pregnancy and even later: like a year or more after giving birth.

    • Depression 

    • Severe mood swings

    • Excessive crying

    • Having difficulties bonding with your baby

    • Pushing away family and friends

    • Losing your appetite or eating too much 

    • Inability to sleep (insomnia) 

    • Sleeping too much

    • Overwhelming fatigue 

    • Lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy

    • Intense irritability 

    • Anger

    • Thoughts that you’re a bad mother

    • Feeling hopeless

    • Feelings of shame and  guilt 

    • Unable to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions

    • Feeling restless

    • Severe anxiety 

    • Panic attacks

    • Thinking of harming yourself or your baby

    • Thinking of death or suicide

    Untreated, postpartum depression can last for months (or longer). 


    Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis

    Postpartum psychosis is a rare condition and it usually arrives within the first week of birth. The symptoms of postpartum psychosis are much more severe than the symptoms of postpartum depression and they may include:

    • Confusion 

    • Disorientation

    • Sleep disturbances

    • Obsessive thoughts about your baby

    • Hallucinations 

    • Delusions

    • Excessive energy 

    • Excessive agitation

    • Paranoia

    • Attempting to harm yourself or your baby

    ** Postpartum psychosis can be life-threatening and it requires immediate treatment. If you have any of these symptoms call 911


    When is it Time to See a Doctor About your Postpartum Mood Disorder?

    If you're feeling depressed after your baby's born, you may not want to admit it. In fact, a lot of women will even try to tell their concerned partner or family members that everything is fine. But it’s really important to call your doctor and schedule an appointment. Trying to cope with untreated postpartum depression is way harder than it is to make that doctor’s appointment, I promise you. Also, if your PPD isn’t treated it can really get in the way of your ability to bond with your baby. 

    If you have any of the symptoms of postpartum psychosis, get help immediately.

    • If your symptoms are still there after two weeks

    • If your symptoms seem to be getting worse

    • If you’re having difficulties caring for your baby

    • If you’re finding it hard to complete everyday tasks

    • If you have any thoughts of harming yourself or your baby


    If you have suicidal thoughts

    If at any point you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, immediately seek help from your partner or loved ones in taking care of your baby and call 911 or your local emergency assistance number to get help.

    Also consider these options if you're having suicidal thoughts:

    How to Prevent Postpartum Depression

    During pregnancy


    After your baby is born

    • Don't wait for the 6-week check-up! Book an early (within a couple of weeks of birth) doctor’s appointment to screen for signs and symptoms of postpartum depression. 

    • The Mamasoup community to maintain your support system.

    • Antidepressant treatment. 

    • Psychotherapy starting right after you have your baby.


    Postpartum mood disorders affect a lot of new moms, but knowing the risks, signs and how to treat and prevent them are important to happier moms and babies.


    Joanne is a birth/postpartum nurse, doula, Lamaze teacher and creator of the MamaSoup online social media community for new moms. She is also the mom of four kids.

     Signs, symptoms, treatments and prevention of postpartum depression


    How to tell if it's baby blues, postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis and what to do
    Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression written by a nurse, doula and Lamaze teacher
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