After giving birth, many women experience a week or two of "baby blues," marked by mood swings, feelings of ambivalence toward motherhood, mild depression, and bouts of unexplainable crying. These blues may be a result of hormonal changes, of the way labor, delivery, and motherhood are treated in today's society, or of the isolation new mothers often feel. Certainly lack of sleep plays a role, too. In some women, as many as 10-20 percents of new mothers, the baby blues turns into clinical postpartum depression, or PPD. In an even smaller number of women, this can become a major psychological disturbance, called postpartum psychosis.
While the baby blues can last from a few days to a few weeks and can include symptoms such as crying spells, anxiety, inability to sleep, and quick fluctuations in mood, PPD lingers for much longer and rarely seems to lift. 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 PPD.
How do you know if you are experiencing baby blues or PPD? Symptoms of PPD linger and are generally more intense than symptoms of baby blues. 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 breastfeeding women.
Treatment for postpartum depression may consist of antidepressant and/or antianxiety medicines, talk therapy, support groups, or other behavioral modification like cognitive behavioral therapy. If you are diagnosed or even suspect you may have PPD, there are things you can do to cope with your symptoms and make them more manageable: