Postpartum Depression (PPD): Signs, Symptoms, and Risk Factors
“Baby blues,” as it is often known, is likely linked to the sudden drop of hormones—estrogen and progesterone—after giving birth. However, a prolonged episode of the baby blues can bring about a condition known as postpartum depression (PPD), or in severe cases, postpartum psychosis. While it is not often spoken of, it is estimated that up to 13% of women suffer from depressive symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms associated with PPD often include the symptoms of baby blues. Anxiety, mood swings, sadness, irritability, crying episodes, and trouble sleeping beyond the typical lack of sleep associated with having a newborn are present with baby blues. These tend to go away and symptoms are not severe. More often than not, however, PPD signs and symptoms are and they last longer than a few weeks and can even occur a few months after childbirth. Women find that they are unable to take care of their newborn, or other children, if applicable. Basic tasks are almost impossible, even overwhelming, to accomplish.
The following signs and symptoms are characteristic of PPD in addition to the above:
- Feelings of sadness and hopelessness;
- Lack of concentration;
- Loss of appetite;
- Extreme anger or irritability;
- Loss of interest and joy in life;
- Social withdrawal;
- Inability to bond with the baby.
"Up to 1 in 7 mothers are affected by postpartum depression."— American Psychological Association
Depression can occur after the birth of a child; however, there are known risk factors that increase a woman’s chance for developing PPD. Such situations can include complications after childbirth, enduring an extreme amount of stress, poor familial support, and histories of bipolar disorder, depression, or PPD.[4,5]
What It's Like to Have PPD
Treatment Options for PPD
Treatment intervention through antidepressants, counseling, or a combination of both may be necessary if the above PPD signs and symptoms last longer than two weeks or worsen. Emergent care is required if thoughts develop about harming oneself and/or the baby. The earlier treatment is sought, the sooner recovery can begin.
Postpartum Psychosis: A Rare Condition
A severe and rare condition, postpartum psychosis requires emergent care as its symptoms can quickly escalate and put a woman and her loved ones in danger. Some things to look for include hallucinations, confusion, mood swings, and trying to harm oneself or baby. According to Women’s Health, psychosis is rare and usually occurs in 1 to 4 births out of every 1,000.
Have you ever been diagnosed with PPD?
Consult Your Doctor
If you suspect that you might be suffering from PPD, I urge you to discuss your concerns and symptoms with your physician. PPD is a serious condition that requires proper diagnosis and treatment by a licensed doctor. If thoughts of suicide or thoughts of harming yourself or your baby occur, call your doctor, or 911, immediately.
[1, 6] Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Depression During and After Pregnancy Fact Sheet. Accessed October 25, 2016. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/depression-pregnancy.html
[2, 3] Mayo Clinic. Symptoms. Accessed October 25, 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/postpartum-depression/DS00546/DSECTION=symptoms
 Mayo Clinic. Risk Factors. Accessed October 25, 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/postpartum-depression/DS00546/DSECTION=risk-factors
 WebMD. Postpartum Depression – What Increases Your Risk. Accessed October 29, 2016. http://www.webmd.com/depression/postpartum-depression/postpartum-depression-what-increases-your-risk