Postpartum depression (PPD) is different from the “baby blues.” A majority of new mothers experience a period of sadness that isn’t debilitating and passes quickly. Symptoms of the “baby blues” include tearfulness, irritability, restlessness, and anxiety. But when symptoms of sadness, irritability, or anxiety continue for more than two weeks, or when they make it difficult to care for your baby, there is more going on and it’s time to reach out for help.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Sadness, tearfulness, emptiness, or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability, or excessive frustration
- Feeling profoundly overwhelmed by tasks and responsibilities
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, or inadequacy
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Difficulty sleeping, even when the baby sleeps
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate, or make decisions
- Trouble bonding with the baby
- Thoughts of harming the baby or oneself
Symptoms vary in severity, but persistent sadness and anxiety can cause new moms to feel isolated, guilty, or ashamed. Tell your doctor if symptoms persist for more than two weeks or get worse, if you have thoughts of suicide or of harming your child, or if you are having trouble caring for your baby or yourself.
PPD is an illness. It is not a sign of weakness or of being a bad mother. It can be treated successfully, and getting help right away is the best thing you can do for you and your baby.
Many new moms experience anxiety rather than sadness. Anxiety, panic attacks, irrational fears, or intrusive thoughts or images can be associated with postpartum anxiety disorders. Symptoms can include persistent scary thoughts of bad things happening to the baby, excessive concerns about the baby’s safety, and anxiety or excessive worry that interferes with your normal routine.
New mothers can also develop symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or experience a recurrence of symptoms following a difficult childbirth experience. PTSD involves re-experiencing the trauma through flashbacks or nightmares, having difficulty sleeping, and feeling detached or estranged from friends and loved ones.
Postpartum psychosis is rare but also very serious. It affects about one out of every 500 new moms. The symptoms are severe and may include insomnia, agitation, hallucinations, and extreme paranoia or suspiciousness. Postpartum psychosis is a serious medical emergency and requires immediate attention.