After giving birth, many women experience "baby blues" marked by mood swings, feelings of ambivalence toward motherhood, mild depression, and bouts of unexplainable crying. These blues, which last one or two weeks, may result from hormonal changes or feelings of isolation. Lack of sleep certainly plays a role, too.
The baby blues can last from a few days to a few weeks and include symptoms like crying spells, anxiety, inability to sleep, and quick fluctuations in mood. On the other hand, postpartum depression lingers for much longer, and it’s generally more intense. Joel Evans, M.D., coauthor of The Whole Pregnancy Handbook (Gotham), explains that if you experienced depression during your pregnancy or have suffered from PPD after previous pregnancies, you may be at increased risk for postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression symptoms are different for everyone and no two mothers experience exactly the same thing. If you recognize any three of the following symptoms, you may have PPD and should consult a physician. You may need counseling, medication, or both. Antidepressant medications are effective in treating symptoms associated with PPD and many are safe for breastfeeding women.
Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that you once enjoyed, including sex
Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
Loss of weight and/or appetite, or overeating and weight gain
Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
Persistent physical symptoms that don't respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
Treatment for postpartum depression may consist of antidepressant and/or anti-anxiety medicines, talk therapy, support groups, or other behavioral methods like cognitive behavioral therapy. If you are diagnosed with postpartum depression (or suspect you have it), the following tips may help:
Set realistic goals, and assume a reasonable amount of responsibility—let your family and friends help you.
Break large tasks into small ones, set priorities, and do what you can, as you can.
Try to be with other people and to confide in someone; it's usually better than being alone and secretive.
Participate in activities that may make you feel better.
Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Remember, people rarely "snap out of" a depression. Feeling better takes time.