What to Know About Postpartum Depression

If you’re a new parent, you may have noticed that your emotions go up and down. You might cry for no reason or feel more sad or anxious than usual.

Experts often call this the “baby blues,” a short-term condition that affects up to 70% of new moms. But a smaller number of women (about 1 in 9) get a more serious mood disorder called postpartum depression (PPD). And dads can get it, too. Research shows that about 1 in 10 new fathers develop it during the year their child is born.

Unlike the baby blues, PPD lasts longer than a few weeks. And instead of going away on its own, it usually needs to be treated by a medical professional.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Some signs of PPD include:

  • Feeling overwhelmingly tired and not having the energy to do the things you need to do
  • Feeling extremely sad
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless, or like you’re a bad parent
  • Having frequent mood swings
  • Being uninterested in your baby, or feeling like you’re not bonding or connecting with your baby
  • Feeling very anxious about your baby or other things. You might even have panic attacks.
  • Sleeping too much or being unable to sleep
  • Eating too much or losing your appetite 
  • Being unable to enjoy things you used to, like eating or spending time with others
  • Feeling extremely angry
  • Crying all the time, often for no reason
  • Having a hard time concentrating or making decisions
  • Worrying about hurting yourself or your baby
  • Thinking about suicide

Symptoms of PPD can show up before the birth of your baby, soon after, or up to a year afterward. Sometimes parents who develop PPD were depressed before or during pregnancy, too.

Postpartum depression is not the same thing as postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis is an extremely rare condition that causes hallucinations and delusions.

Who Gets PPD?

If you have PPD, it’s not because you did anything wrong. Experts think it happens for many reasons, and those can be different for different people. PPD can affect anyone, including parents who didn’t have PPD after other babies.

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Certain changes most women go through after birth can be a factor in PPD. After birth, levels of hormones like estrogen and progesterone drop quickly, and that may trigger mood swings or a very low mood.

New dads don’t go through the same changes in hormones that new mothers do, but men with low levels of hormones like testosterone are more likely to have PPD. And stress, life changes, lack of social support, and feeling left out of mother-baby bonding can also raise the odds a dad will get PPD.

Not getting good sleep once your new baby has arrived can cause symptoms of PPD, like exhaustion and sadness. It’s not clear why these issues lead to PPD in some parents but not others.

Some things that may raise your chances of PPD include:

  • Having a mood disorder in the past, like depression, postpartum depression, anxiety disorder, or bipolar disorder
  • A family history of depression or other mood disorders
  • Going through an extremely stressful event, like a job loss, financial problems, or health problems over the past year
  • Having a child with special needs or health problems
  • Having twins or triplets
  • Dealing with relationship problems with your partner or spouse
  • Lack of support from friends, family, and other members of your community 
  • An unplanned or unwanted pregnancy

If You Think You Have PPD

If you’ve been feeling down for more than 2 weeks, let your doctor know. Even if you don’t have PPD, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the support and resources you need to keep yourself and your baby healthy.

If your doctor says you have PPD, treatment can make a big difference in your health -- and your baby’s health, too. Recent research shows that when PPD goes untreated, it can lead to sleeping, eating, and long-term issues in babies.

Only a health care professional can tell you if you have PPD, so it’s important to make an appointment with your doctor if your mood stays low for several weeks.

If you’re thinking about suicide or worry about harming yourself or your child, see a doctor or mental health professional right away or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on April 02, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institute of Mental Health: “Postpartum Depression Facts.”

American Psychiatric Association: “What is Postpartum Depression?”

Mayo Clinic: “Postpartum Depression.”

American Psychological Association: “What is Postpartum Depression and Anxiety?”

Mary Jane Minkin, MD, professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Yale University School of Medicine.

Journal of the American Medical Association: “Prenatal and Postpartum Depression in Fathers and its Association With Maternal Depression.” 

Psychiatry: “Sad dads: paternal postpartum depression." 

Journal of Pediatric Health Care: “Paternal Postpartum Depression: What Health Care Providers Should Know.” 

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