Do I Have Postpartum Depression? A Simple Postpartum Depression Quiz
Updated July 10, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Tonia Cassaday
While Postpartum Depression was once spoken of in whispers behind closed doors, high-profile cases of the disorder have increasingly brought the disorder to light. This is a vast improvement, as a significant number of women experience some form of postpartum changes to their mental health, such as Postpartum Depression or Postpartum Anxiety.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum Depression is a depressive disorder. Its onset follows giving birth, and symptoms usually begin within a few days to a few weeks following birth. Postpartum Depression symptoms mimic typical depressive disorders in the way that it manifests, with a few stark differences that relate specifically to the parent of a child. Although the precise reason for its onset is not known, Postpartum Depression is now recognized as a valid, legitimate disorder that can follow giving birth. There may also be instances of experiencing the condition after adopting, but this is a lesser-studied form of depression. Postpartum depression symptoms typically last for one year or less postpartum, and it is a highly treatable condition. Most Postpartum Depression is considered a minor depressive disorder, but some cases may be severe enough to be classified as a major depressive disorder.
Postpartum Depression Versus Postpartum Anxiety
Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety are similar conditions, and they may accompany one another. The symptoms associated with each are largely the same, with a few important differences. The similarities between Postpartum Depression symptoms and Postpartum Anxiety symptoms include:
- Postpartum onset. Both conditions begin following the birth of a child. They may affect both parents but are more common among mothers. If depression or anxiety began prior to birth, it is not considered a postpartum disorder.
- Increased levels of anxiety. Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety feature increased anxiety levels, including the fear that parenting ability is inadequate, and that a child will not be appropriately cared for.
- Sleep changes. Both Postpartum Anxiety and Depression often demonstrate significant sleep changes as part of their symptom set. Postpartum Depression is typically characterized by an increased need to sleep, or feelings of exhaustion, while Postpartum Anxiety is more often characterized by an inability to sleep due to high levels of fear or worry.
Postpartum Depression symptoms also contain elements that Postpartum Anxiety symptoms do not, the most significant of which is the thought of harming oneself or harming one’s child. Although Postpartum Anxiety might suggest to a parent that a child will be harmed—harmed via suffocation in the sheets, perhaps, or suffering a fall—Postpartum Depression suggests that a child might be harmed by the parent, an important distinction that can help differentiate between Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety. This distinction is important, too, because it allows clinicians to more effectively and clearly deduce whether a parent is suffering from postpartum depression.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum Depression symptoms may be obscured by the hormonal changes following pregnancy and birth. Still, there are definite symptoms associated with the condition, which can be evaluated by a mental health professional. Postpartum Depression symptoms include:
- Depressed mood. Although sadness is common following birth, as are feelings of overwhelm, persistent depressed mood is an indication of depression, rather than simple hormonal changes or sadness.
- Difficulty with or inability to bond with your baby. Mothers and children experience significant bonding behaviors in the weeks and months following birth. Mothers typically experience feelings of excitement, closeness, and a desire to protect and nurture their children. When the Postpartum Depression is present, though, the ability to bond is impaired, which can interfere with developing closeness and protective mechanisms.
- Fatigue and loss of energy. Although there is undoubtedly some fatigue common to new parents—newborns sleep only 2-3 hours or less at a time—typical fatigue is mitigated by sleep and rest. Fatigue brought on by Postpartum Depression is not improved by sleep or rest.
- Feeling shameful, guilty, or inadequate. While some amount of concern is normal for a new parent, it is not typical to feel as though you are incapable of caring for your child, nor is it typical to feel shameful or guilty about any perceived lack of ability. These feelings can indicate that depression is at play.
- The desire to harm yourself or your baby. This is, arguably, one of the most distressing symptoms to new parents, as it can be frightening to experience thoughts of self-harm, or thoughts of harming your child. This symptom can also make it difficult to seek help. It is essential to know that this is a product of depression, though, rather than a legitimate desire to harm.
Is It Postpartum Depression?
Although Postpartum Depression is a diagnosable condition, there are some questions you can ask yourself to determine whether you are at risk for developing or having the disorder. These include:
- A family history of Postpartum Depression. One of the greatest risk factors for developing Postpartum Depression is a family history of Postpartum Depression. Unfortunately, because this disorder was not always widely discussed or diagnosed, having a mother or grandmother with the condition might not be as familiar. Nevertheless, family history can still play a role, and even having a sibling with the diagnosis can provide a window into risk factors.
- A family history of mood disorders. If there is not a family history of Postpartum Depression, but there are instances of mood disorders in your family, such as General Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, or others, you are at higher risk for developing the condition. Although the exact mechanisms of this are not known, there is a consistent link between family histories of mental illness and mental disorders and younger generations also possessing those disorders.
- Are your hormone levels altered? In some cases, mood changes following pregnancy are caused by fluctuating hormones; during pregnancy, and after birth, the human body contains a veritable cocktail of intense hormonal reactions, many of which are capable of producing intense and unexpected mental and emotional effects. Working with a general practitioner to test hormone levels can be one step in determining whether or not you are at risk for Postpartum Depression.
If any of the above questions apply to you, your likelihood of developing Postpartum Depression is substantially increased.
From there, a quick glance over depressive symptoms and the timing of their onset can further elucidate the likelihood of Postpartum Depression. These symptoms include:
- Intense feelings of sadness. Some sadness is normal after childbirth. The “baby blues” is a term used to describe the hormonal changes and corresponding sadness that accompanies the transition from pregnancy to parenthood. When these feelings persist for weeks or months and increase in their intensity, Postpartum Depression is usually suspected.
- Thoughts of harm. Postpartum Depression is marked by thoughts of self-harm and bringing harm to your child. This is one of the most prominent and easily recognized symptoms of Postpartum Depression.
- Disrupted patterns of eating and sleeping. Depression causes disrupted patterns of eating and sleeping, such as increased or decreased appetite, and an increased desire to or need for sleep.
- Persistent despair, without discernible cause. A mother who has experienced loss will feel pain and despair, and may not be experiencing Postpartum Depression, but may instead be experiencing grief. Conversely, a mother who has not experienced loss following birth and feels pain and despair may be experiencing a symptom of Postpartum Depression.
Although there are more symptoms related to Postpartum Depression, answering positively to any of the points above could indicate the need to reach out to a mental health provider. Because getting out of the house with a newborn can be difficult, there are online therapy platforms, such as BetterHelp, designed to make getting help easier for individuals in need of intervention from the comfort and safety of home.
Treating Postpartum Depression
Treatment for Postpartum Depression is often a two-pronged approach but may even be a 3-pronged approach. Therapy is typically recommended for parents experiencing Postpartum Depression. The precise duration and frequency with which therapy is administered will usually depend on the severity of the illness. Medication is often also recommended for individuals with the condition, to help manage the symptoms, and create greater freedom for new parents striving to create a safe, healthy home environment. Some therapists may also enlist the help of other practitioners to implement dietary and lifestyle changes to aid in healing.
Other, more intense forms of Postpartum Depression, such as Postpartum Psychosis, will require more significant treatment and intervention. Although they only make up about 1% of new mothers, Postpartum Psychosis can develop and is essentially a more aggravated form of the disorder. Nevertheless, postpartum conditions are considered highly treatable and typically abate within a year of giving birth. Whether you are experiencing mild symptoms or severe symptoms, the onset of Postpartum Depression symptoms can make new mothers feel frightened, isolated, and broken. If you match any of the descriptors listed above or fear the way that you feel or think, do not hesitate to reach out for help.