What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that occurs after giving birth. A mood is an emotion or a feeling. Moods affect your behavior and how you feel about yourself and life in general. Depression is a sad mood that you cannot control. Women often feel sad, afraid, or nervous after their baby is born. These feelings are called postpartum blues or baby blues, and they usually go away in 1 to 2 weeks. With postpartum depression, these symptoms get worse and continue for more than 2 weeks. Postpartum depression is a serious condition that affects your daily activities and relationships.
What causes postpartum depression?
Caregivers do not know exactly what causes postpartum depression. It may be caused by a sudden drop in hormone levels after childbirth. A previous episode of postpartum depression or a family history of depression may increase your risk. Several things may trigger postpartum depression:
- Lack of support from the baby's father or other family members
- Feeling more tired than usual
- Stress, a poor diet, or lack of sleep
- Pain after childbirth or pain during breastfeeding
- Sudden change in lifestyle
How is postpartum depression diagnosed?
Postpartum depression affects your daily activities and your relationships with other people. Caregivers will ask you questions about your signs and symptoms and how they are affecting your life. The symptoms of postpartum depression usually begin within 1 month after childbirth. You feel depressed or lose interest in activities you enjoy nearly every day for at least 2 weeks. You also have 4 or more of the following symptoms:
- You feel tired or have less energy than usual.
- You feel unimportant or guilty most of the time.
- You think about hurting or killing yourself.
- Your appetite changes. You may lose your appetite and lose weight without trying. Your appetite may also increase and you may gain weight.
- You are restless, irritable, or withdrawn.
- You have trouble concentrating and remembering things. You have trouble doing daily tasks or making decisions.
- You have trouble sleeping, even after the baby is asleep.
How is postpartum depression treated?
- Psychotherapy: During therapy, you will talk with caregivers about how to cope with your feelings and moods. This can be done alone or in a group. It may also be done with family members or your partner.
- Antidepressants: This medicine is given to decrease or stop the symptoms of depression. You usually need to take antidepressants for several weeks before you begin to feel better. Do not stop taking antidepressants unless your caregiver tells you to. Caregivers may try a different antidepressant if one type does not work.
What can I do to feel better?
- Rest: Do not try to do everything all at the same time. Do only what is needed and let other things wait until later. Ask your family or friends for help, especially if you have other children. Ask your partner to help with night feedings or other baby care. Try to sleep when the baby naps.
- Get emotional support: Share your feelings with your partner, a friend, or another mother.
- Take care of yourself: Shower and dress each day. Do not skip meals. Try to get out of the house a little each day. Get regular exercise. Eat a healthy diet. Avoid alcohol because it can make your depression worse. Do not isolate yourself. Go for a walk or meet with a friend. It is also important that you have some time by yourself each day.
How do I find support and more information?
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Public Information & Communication Branch
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
Web Address: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/
When should I contact my caregiver?
Contact your caregiver if:
- You cannot make it to your next visit.
- Your depression does not get better with treatment or it gets worse.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care?
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You think about hurting or killing yourself, your baby, or someone else.
- You feel like other people want to hurt you.
- You hear voices telling you to hurt yourself or your baby.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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