What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on November 28, 2022
2 min read

Having a baby changes everything. Along with the excitement, you’re juggling new responsibilities, lack of sleep, and maybe even some fear about doing things right. These emotions can be a lot for anyone. But sometimes, mothers of newborns can feel overwhelmed.

It’s not unusual to feel a little sad after your baby is born. These “baby blues” usually last a few weeks.

But if you don’t start feeling yourself again, or you get worse, you may have postpartum depression. It’s a severe form of depression related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Postpartum depression is much worse than the baby blues. Moms who have the baby blues usually are sad, anxious, and have trouble sleeping. But they get better within about 2 weeks after their baby is born.

With postpartum depression, symptoms can occur within the first 4 weeks and or later after your baby is born, and they’re serious. They might last up to a year.

Symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Totally avoiding family and friends
  • Not being able to take care of yourself or your baby
  • Trouble feeling close to your baby, or bonding
  • Fears that you’re not a good mother
  • Severe mood swings, anxiety, or panic attacks
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Lack of interest in daily tasks
  • Thoughts of harming your baby
  • Thoughts of suicide, or suicide attempts

If you think you have postpartum depression, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. They can get you treatments that will help you feel more like yourself again.

There are many things that may cause you to have postpartum depression. If you’ve ever had depression before, or have had it with other pregnancies, you’re more likely to get it again.

Stress, problems with drugs or alcohol, low self-esteem, or trouble with your pregnancy can make postpartum depression more likely. So can having a baby with special needs.

In rare cases, women can have postpartum psychosis, a severe mental illness. It is an emergency and needs immediate medical help. If you have these symptoms, call your doctor or 911 right away:

  • You can't sleep.
  • You can’t think clearly.
  • You've been hallucinating or having delusions, meaning you sense or believe things that aren’t real.
  • You have obsessive and fearful thoughts about your baby.
  • You're paranoid -- deeply suspicious of other people, and no one can talk you out of it.
  • You refuse to eat.
  • You've thought of harming yourself or your baby.

Remember, postpartum depression is a medical condition. It has nothing to do with your character, how good a mother you are, or how much you love your baby. It’s just like any other health problem -- you need care in order to get better.