Postpartum depression (PPD) is a form of clinical depression related to pregnancy and childbirth. PPD is a severe form of depression (major depression) that occurs within the first 4 weeks after delivery, affecting about 15% of women. By contrast, a milder condition called the "baby blues" occurs usually within the first week of delivery, affecting up to 80% of women, and usually resolving without the need for any medical or psychiatric treatment.
Symptoms of the "baby blues" include sadness, anxiety, tearfulness, and trouble sleeping. These symptoms usually appear within several days of delivery and go away 10 to 12 days after the birth. Usually the only treatment needed is reassurance and some help with household chores and care of the baby. About 20% of women who have postpartum blues will develop more lasting depression. It is very important to let your health care provider know if you experience "blues" that last longer than two weeks.
Did You Know?
Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will cover preventive mental health services, including screening tests for depression and alcohol misuse, at no cost to you. Learn more.
The symptoms of postpartum depression -- which may last from weeks to up to a year -- may be quite intense, even frightening. If you have postpartum depression, you may feel unable to take care of your baby or yourself. Daily tasks, such as dressing, cooking, and working around your home or on the job, may seem impossible. You may have alternating "good" and "bad" days. Like some women with PPD, you may feel too ashamed of your feelings to tell others, including your partner. You may be afraid that if you talk about your symptoms -- which may include thoughts about harming your baby -- your infant may be taken away from you. But this is not likely. You may at times experience very intense anxiety. With professional help, almost all women who experience PPD are able to overcome their feelings and take good care of themselves and their children. If you think you have postpartum depression, it's important to seek help as soon as possible. Your ob-gyn or primary care doctor is a good place to start. He or she can screen you for depression and also treat your depression symptoms.