Postpartum depression affects 1 in 9 mothers and about 1 in 10 fathers after the birth of a baby. It happens at a vulnerable time filled with changes to your life as you learn to care for a newborn.
It’s important to know the facts about this condition and understand that some common misconceptions aren’t true.
It’s just the “baby blues.”
Emotional mood swings are normal for a few weeks after your baby is born. But if you feel extremely sad, anxious, or indifferent several weeks or months after having a baby, it could be postpartum depression.
It starts right after birth.
Most of the time, postpartum depression begins in the first few months after childbirth. But it can start as early as during pregnancy and as late as a year afterward.
It goes away on its own.
You won’t just get over it or snap out of it. Postpartum depression is a treatable medical condition. If your symptoms get worse or it’s hard to take care of your baby, talk with your doctor about your feelings and emotions.
They may recommend antidepressant medication, but tell them if you’re breastfeeding. Many are safe for your infant, but not all of them are.
Your doctor also may suggest psychotherapy, an exercise program, or a nutrition program to help with symptoms.
It only happens to women.
Studies have found that up to 10% of new fathers get postpartum depression, most often in the 3 to 6 months after the baby’s born. A new father is more likely to be depressed if their partner has postpartum depression.
It can be prevented.
You can’t do anything to make sure you don’t get postpartum depression. If you have a history of depression or you’ve had postpartum depression after the birth of a child in the past, your doctor may screen you for depression before the baby’s born or recommend additional checkups afterward to watch for signs.
You hear voices or have hallucinations.
Symptoms don’t include hearing voices, having hallucinations, or feeling manic or paranoid. Those are symptoms of a rare but extremely serious condition called postpartum psychosis.
With postpartum psychosis, you may feel confused, disoriented, or delusional. You may have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby. If this happens, call your doctor right away or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).
It means you’re a bad parent.
Postpartum depression is an illness caused by chemical imbalances in your brain that you can’t control. You didn’t bring this on yourself.
Feelings of being a failure are a symptom of postpartum depression. It isn’t a reflection of your ability as a parent. Talk to your doctor or your loved ones and get help.