It’s common to feel a lot of emotions, including sadness, after giving birth, but some new moms experience something heavier called postpartum depression. Let’s talk about it.
About 80 percent of moms with newborns experience what’s called baby blues —– a short-lived period of strong emotions and mood swings triggered by hormonal changes —– after childbirth. However, for up to 20 percent of moms with newborns, baby blues may linger longer than two weeks and evolve into a condition called postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression doesn’t only affect moms. It can affect dads of newborns, too. In fact, up to 10 percent of dads with newborns experience symptoms.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a severe condition that can develop after childbirth. While it can develop any time during your baby’s first year, many new moms (and dads) will feel symptoms of postpartum depression during the first three weeks after their baby is born.
When postpartum depression strikes, it can feel confusing. Because new parents expect to feel extreme joy about their baby, it can be alarming to feel negative emotions.
You aren’t alone
New moms and dads can be ashamed to admit they don’t always feel happy. Instead, they may feel sad, anxious, worried and even numb. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, and you don’t have to face it alone. It’s important to let your (or your baby’s) healthcare provider know how you feel, and to have a conversation about how your mood is affecting you. Your provider can then make some recommendations that will get you back to feeling like yourself fast.
Two women share their experiences with postpartum depression
Symptoms of postpartum depression
Knowing the symptoms can help you spot postpartum depression. Symptoms may vary from person to person and, in some cases, day to day.
Symptoms can include:
- Anxiety and/or panic attacks
- Depressed mood or sadness
- Crying frequently
- Feelings of worthlessness, worrying that you are a bad parent
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- A sense of hopelessness or that things won’t get better
- Sudden mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Intense irritability
- Lack of interest in or difficulty bonding with your baby
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Treatment for postpartum depression
If you feel any symptoms of postpartum depression, or “off” in any way, it’s important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible. With prompt treatment, you can start feeling better.
Treatment options commonly include:
Your doctor or healthcare provider may prescribe an antidepressant. Antidepressants work by altering the chemicals in your brain that regulate your mood. However, it may take some time to notice a difference. If your symptoms seem to worsen, or you experience side effects, talk to your doctor right away.
Also, be sure to tell your doctor if you’re breastfeeding. Most antidepressants are safe to take while nursing, though.
A psychologist, social worker or therapist can teach you strategies for adjusting to your new role and life changes. They can also help you work through any negative thoughts you may be having.
Other things that may help:
- Letting family and friends help you with chores
- Talking to trusted friends and family members about the way you’re feeling
- Getting as much rest (and healthy food) as possible
Most importantly, keep your health care team informed about how you’ are feeling. They’re here to help.
Postpartum care at Geisinger
When you choose a Geisinger OBGYN or midwife for your pregnancy care, your care team will conduct routine depression screenings (using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale), both during your pregnancy and after childbirth. And if you choose a Geisinger pediatrician to provide care for your little one, they’ll also screen you throughout the first year. Screening takes just a few minutes and can help start the conversation between you and your healthcare provider.
But you don’t have to wait for your next appointment with your healthcare provider. If you’re experiencing symptoms, reach out to your doctor right away. They’re here to support you and help you get back to bonding with your child.