Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Postpartum Depression

Are mood changes common after childbirth?

After having a baby, many women have mood swings. One minute they feel happy, the next minute they start to cry. They may feel a little depressed, have a hard time concentrating, lose their appetite or find that they can't sleep well even when the baby is asleep. These symptoms usually start about 3 to 4 days after delivery and may last several days.
If you're a new mother and have any of these symptoms, you have what are called the "baby blues." "The blues" are considered a normal part of early motherhood and usually go away within 10 days after delivery. However, some women have worse symptoms or symptoms last longer. This is called "postpartum depression."

What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is an illness, like diabetes or heart disease. It can be treated with therapy, support networks and medicines such as antidepressants. Here are some symptoms of postpartum depression:
Although many women get depressed right after childbirth, some women don't feel "down" until several weeks or months later. Depression that occurs within 6 months of childbirth may be postpartum depression.

Who gets postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is more likely if you had any of the following:

Why do women get postpartum depression?

The exact cause isn't known. Hormone levels change during pregnancy and right after childbirth. Those hormone changes may produce chemical changes in the brain that play a part in causing depression.
Feeling depressed doesn't mean that you're a bad person, or that you did something wrong or that you brought this on yourself.

How long does postpartum depression last?

It's hard to say. Some women feel better within a few weeks, but others feel depressed or "not themselves" for many months. Women who have more severe symptoms of depression or who have had depression in the past may take longer to get well. Just remember that help is available and that you can get better.

What kinds of treatments help with postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is treated much like any other depression. Support, counseling ("talk therapy") and medicines can help.

If I'm breast-feeding, can I take an antidepressant?

If you take an antidepressant medicine, it will go into your breast milk. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking an antidepressant while breast-feeding. Your doctor can decide which medicine you can use while nursing your baby.

What can I do to help myself?

If you have given birth recently and are feeling sad, blue, anxious, irritable, tired or have any of the other symptoms mentioned here, remember that many other women have had the same experience. You're not "losing your mind" or "going crazy" and you shouldn't feel that you just have to suffer. Here are some things you can do that other mothers with postpartum depression have found helpful:


Postpartum Support International: www.chss.iup.edu/postpartum
Postpartum Education for Parents: www.sbpep.org