Having a baby is a life-changing experience. Being a parent is exciting but can also be tiring and overwhelming. It’s normal to have feelings of worry or doubt, especially if you are a first-time parent. However, if your feelings include extreme sadness or loneliness, severe mood swings and frequent crying spells, you may have postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a type of depression that happens after someone gives birth. Postpartum depression doesn’t just affect the birthing person. It can affect surrogates and adoptive parents, too. People experience hormonal, physical, emotional, financial and social changes after having a baby. These changes can cause symptoms of postpartum depression.
If you have postpartum depression, know that you are not alone, it’s not your fault and that help is out there. Your healthcare provider can manage your symptoms and help you feel better.
What are the types of postpartum depression?
There are three different types of postpartum mood disorders:
Postpartum blues or baby blues
The baby blues affect between 50% and 75% of people after delivery. If you’re experiencing the baby blues, you will have frequent, prolonged bouts of crying for no apparent reason, sadness and anxiety. The condition usually begins in the first week (one to four days) after delivery. Although the experience is unpleasant, the condition usually subsides within two weeks without treatment. The best thing you can do is find support and ask for help from friends, family or your partner.
Postpartum depression is a far more serious condition than the baby blues, affecting about 1 in 7 new parents. If you’ve had postpartum depression before, your risk increases to 30% each pregnancy. You may experience alternating highs and lows, frequent crying, irritability and fatigue, as well as feelings of guilt, anxiety and inability to care for your baby or yourself. Symptoms range from mild to severe and may appear within a week of delivery or gradually, even up to a year later. Although symptoms can last several months, treatment with psychotherapy or antidepressants is very effective.
Postpartum psychosis is an extremely severe form of postpartum depression and requires emergency medical attention. This condition is relatively rare, affecting only 1 in 1,000 people after delivery. The symptoms generally occur quickly after delivery and are severe, lasting for a few weeks to several months. Symptoms include severe agitation, confusion, feelings of hopelessness and shame, insomnia, paranoia, delusions or hallucinations, hyperactivity, rapid speech or mania. Postpartum psychosis requires immediate medical attention since there is an increased risk of suicide and risk of harm to the baby. Treatment will usually include hospitalization, psychotherapy and medication.
Who is affected by postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is common. As many as 75% of people experience baby blues after delivery. Up to 15% of these people will develop postpartum depression. One in 1,000 people develop postpartum psychosis.
How do I know if I have baby blues or postpartum depression?
Many people have baby blues after giving birth. Baby blues and postpartum depression have similar symptoms. However, symptoms of baby blues last about 10 days and are less intense. With postpartum depression, the symptoms last weeks or months, and the symptoms are more severe.
You may have the baby blues if you:
- Have crying spells.
- Feel overwhelmed.
- Lose your appetite.
- Have trouble sleeping.
- Have sudden mood changes.
Remember, it doesn’t hurt to share your symptoms with your provider. They can assess if you need treatment for your symptoms.
How long does postpartum depression last?
Postpartum depression can last until one year after your child is born. However, this doesn’t mean you should feel “cured” in one year. Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms and treatment. Be honest about how you feel. Think carefully about if you feel better than you did at the beginning of your diagnosis. Then, they can recommend ongoing treatment for your symptoms.
What factors increase my risk of being depressed after the birth of my child?
Certain factors increase your risk for postpartum depression:
- Having a personal or family history of depression, postpartum depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
- Limited social support.
- Marital or relationship conﬂict.
- Ambivalence about the pregnancy.
- Pregnancy complications like health conditions, difficult delivery or premature birth.
- You’re younger than 20 or a single parent.
- Having a baby with special needs or a baby who cries a lot.