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Recognizing the Signs of Postpartum Depression

Are You Experiencing Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression isn't always easy to recognize. After childbirth, many new moms assume that depression, anxiety, exhaustion and other stressful feelings are part of being a new parent. They may have trouble recognizing when it's time to reach out for extra help and support.

If you or someone you love is experiencing postpartum depression, know that there are ways to feel better and more empowered in motherhood. Here are some of the most common signs to be aware of, plus information on where to get help.

What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression can be severe and debilitating. Experts estimate it impacts approximately 15% of new mothers, and symptoms can take as long as one year or longer to develop.

The National Institute of Mental Health recognizes postpartum depression as a mood disorder that can make it difficult for a new mother to adequately care for herself and/or her family. Symptoms like extreme sadness, depression, anxiety and exhaustion are some of the most common signs of postpartum depression, but every case is unique.

The most common signs of postpartum depression

Every experience of postpartum depression is different, but there are several common signs to look for, such as:

  • Feeling tired and fatigued frequently
  • Extreme feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and/or overwhelm
  • Changes in sleeping habits and appetite
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Feeling guilty and worthless
  • A loss of interest in hobbies, activities, family and friends (including withdrawal)
  • A lack of interest in the baby and a hard time bonding

The severity of symptoms can range from relatively mild to completely debilitating. Regardless, postpartum depression is not the result of something a new mom does or doesn't do — the exact cause is unknown. Some women, like those who have a history of depression, do have a greater chance of developing this type of depression.

It's also important to note that some mothers develop difficult, and potentially scary, feelings during postpartum depression. For example, thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby are not uncommon.

While these feelings and others are normal symptoms of postpartum depression, treating them does require the support of a healthcare provider.

Can new fathers experience postpartum depression?

While most information focuses on how to support new mothers, postpartum depression can impact new dads, too.

Paternal postpartum depression is a greater risk for young fathers and those with a history of depression, relationship problems and/or financial struggles. They experience the same symptoms, and can benefit from the same support, as women.

Treatment and support for mothers and fathers suffering from postpartum depression

To effectively treat postpartum depression, treatment and support from a healthcare professional is needed. There's no shame in getting help, especially if the symptoms disrupt daily life.

Treatments can include medication, therapy or both. To get started, contact your primary doctor and consider scheduling an appointment with a mental health counselor .