Is Postpartum Depression Common?
Most new mothers experience the "baby blues" after delivery. About one out of every 10 of these women will develop a more severe and longer-lasting depression after delivery. About one in 1,000 women develops a more serious condition called postpartum psychosis.
Are There Different Types of Postpartum Depression?
There are three types of mood changes women can have after giving birth:
- The "baby blues," which occur in most women in the days right after childbirth, are considered normal. A new mother has sudden mood swings, such as feeling very happy and then feeling very sad. She may cry for no reason and can feel impatient, irritable, restless, anxious, lonely, and sad. The baby blues may last only a few hours or as long as one to two weeks after delivery. The baby blues do not usually require treatment from a health care provider. Often, joining a support group of new moms or talking with other moms helps.
Postpartum depression (PPD) can happen a few days or even months after childbirth. PPD can happen after the birth of any child, not just the first child. A woman can have feelings similar to the baby blues -- sadness, despair, anxiety, irritability -- but she feels them much more strongly than she would with the baby blues. PPD often keeps a woman from doing the things she needs to do every day. When a woman's ability to function is affected, she needs to see her health care provider, such as her ob-gyn or primary care doctor. This doctor can screen her for depression symptoms and develop a treatment plan. If a woman does not get treatment for PPD, symptoms can get worse. While PPD is a serious condition, it can be treated with medication and counseling.
Postpartum psychosis is a very serious mental illness that can affect new mothers. This illness can happen quickly, often within the first three months after childbirth. Women can lose touch with reality, having auditory hallucinations (hearing things that aren't actually happening, like a person talking) and delusions (strongly believing things that are clearly irrational). Visual hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there) are less common. Other symptoms include insomnia (not being able to sleep), feeling agitated and angry, pacing, restlessness, and strange feelings and behaviors. Women who have postpartum psychosis need treatment right away and almost always need medication. Sometimes women are put into the hospital because they are at risk for hurting themselves or someone else.