The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in something you might not expect — depression.
Most new moms experience postpartum "baby blues" after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.
But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. Rarely, an extreme mood disorder called postpartum psychosis also may develop after childbirth.
Postpartum depression isn't a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it's simply a complication of giving birth. If you have postpartum depression, prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms and help you bond with your baby.
Signs and symptoms of depression after childbirth vary, and they can range from mild to severe.
Baby blues symptoms
Signs and symptoms of baby blues — which last only a few days to a week or two after your baby is born — may include:
· Mood swings
· Feeling overwhelmed
· Reduced concentration
· Appetite problems
· Trouble sleeping
Postpartum depression symptoms
Postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer, and may eventually interfere with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but may begin earlier ― during pregnancy ― or later — up to a year after birth.
Postpartum depression signs and symptoms may include:
· Depressed mood or severe mood swings
· Excessive crying
· Difficulty bonding with your baby
· Withdrawing from family and friends
· Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
· Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
· Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
· Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
· Intense irritability and anger
· Fear that you're not a good mother
· Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
· Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
· Severe anxiety and panic attacks
· Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
· Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.
With postpartum psychosis — a rare condition that typically develops within the first week after delivery — the signs and symptoms are severe. Signs and symptoms may include:
· Confusion and disorientation
· Obsessive thoughts about your baby
· Hallucinations and delusions
· Sleep disturbances
· Excessive energy and agitation
· Attempts to harm yourself or your baby
Postpartum psychosis may lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors and requires immediate treatment.
There's no single cause of postpartum depression, but physical and emotional issues may play a role.
· Physical changes. After childbirth, a dramatic drop in hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in your body may contribute to postpartum depression. Other hormones produced by your thyroid gland also may drop sharply — which can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and depressed.
· Emotional issues. When you're sleep deprived and overwhelmed, you may have trouble handling even minor problems. You may be anxious about your ability to care for a newborn. You may feel less attractive, struggle with your sense of identity or feel that you've lost control over your life. Any of these issues can contribute to postpartum depression.
When to see a doctor
If you're feeling depressed after your baby's birth, you may be reluctant or embarrassed to admit it. But if you experience any symptoms of postpartum baby blues or postpartum depression, call your doctor and schedule an appointment. If you have symptoms that suggest you may have postpartum psychosis, get help immediately.
It's important to call your doctor as soon as possible if the signs and symptoms of depression have any of these features:
· Don't fade after two weeks
· Are getting worse
· Make it hard for you to care for your baby
· Make it hard to complete everyday tasks
· Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
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