Postpartum depression (PPD) is different from the “baby blues.” A majority of new mothers experience the “baby blues,” a period of sadness that isn’t debilitating and passes quickly. Symptoms of the “baby blues” include tearfulness, irritability, restlessness and anxiety. But when symptoms of sadness, irritability or anxiety continue for more than two weeks or make it difficult to care for your baby, there is more going on
and it’s time to reach out for help.
Symptoms of PPD include:
- Sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or excessive frustration
- Feeling profoundly overwhelmed by tasks and responsibilities
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Difficulty sleeping even when the baby sleeps
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Trouble bonding with the baby
- Thoughts of harming the baby or oneself
Symptoms vary in severity, but persistent sadness and anxiety often causes new moms to feel isolated, guilty or ashamed. You should tell your doctor if you have several of these symptoms for more than two weeks, if you have thoughts of suicide or of harming your child, sad or anxious feelings are getting worse, or you are having trouble caring for your baby or yourself. PPD is an illness. It is not a sign of weakness or of being a bad mother. It can be treated successfully, and getting help right away is the best thing you can do for you and your baby.
Many new moms experience primarily anxiety rather than sadness. Anxiety, panic attacks, irrational fears or intrusive thoughts or images can be associated with Postpartum Anxiety Disorders. Symptoms can include persistent scary thoughts of bad things happening to the baby, excessive concerns about the baby’s safety, and anxiety or excessive worry that interferes with your normal routine.
New mothers can also develop PTSD symptoms or experience a recurrence of PTSD following a difficult childbirth experience. PTSD involves re-experiencing the trauma through flashbacks or nightmares, having
difficulty sleeping and feeling detached or estranged from friends and loved ones.
Postpartum psychosis is rare but also very serious. It affects about one out of every 500 new moms. The symptoms are severe and may include insomnia, agitation, hallucinations and extreme paranoia or suspiciousness. Postpartum psychosis is a serious medical emergency and requires immediate attention.