Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
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
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
- Loss of interest or pleasure in life
- Loss of appetite
- Less energy and motivation to do things
- A hard time falling asleep or staying asleep
- Sleeping more than usual
- Increased crying or tearfulness
- Feeling worthless, hopeless or overly guilty
- Feeling restless, irritable or anxious
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Feeling like life isn't worth living
- Having thoughts about hurting yourself
- Worrying about hurting your baby
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.
Postpartum depression is more likely if you had
any of the following:
- Previous postpartum depression
- Depression not related to pregnancy
- Severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- A difficult marriage
- Few family members or friends to talk to or
- Stressful life events during the pregnancy or
after the childbirth
Why do women get
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
Feeling depressed doesn't mean that you're a bad
person, or that you did something wrong or that you brought this on
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
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
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:
- Find someone to talk to--and tell that person
about your feelings.
- Get in touch with people who can help you with
child care, household chores and errands. This social support network will help
you find time for yourself so you can rest.
- Find time to do something for yourself, even if
it's only 15 minutes a day. Try reading, exercising (walking is good for you and
easy to do), taking a bath or meditating.
- Keep a diary. Every day, write down your emotions
and feelings as a way of "letting it all out." Once you begin to feel better,
you can go back and reread your diary--this will help you see how much better
- Even if you can only get one thing done in any
given day, this is a step in the right direction. There may be days when you
can't get anything done. Try not to get angry with yourself when this happens.
- It's OK to feel overwhelmed. Childbirth brings
many changes, and parenting is challenging. When you're not feeling like
yourself, these changes can seem like too much to cope with.
- You're not expected to be a "supermom." Be honest
about how much you can do, and ask other people to help you.
- Find a support group in your area or contact one
of the organizations listed below. They can put you in touch with people near
you who have experience with postpartum depression.
- Talk with your doctor about how you feel. He or
she may offer counseling and/or medicines that can help.