Postpartum Depression: Signs And Symptoms

Updated March 20, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The months of waiting during pregnancy present an exciting time for parents. Every milestone of the gestation period brings parents that much is closer to the time when they can hold their newborn baby for the first time. The preparation of staging the nursery, buying clothing and other baby necessities, and attending showers build anticipation for a special time of joy and happiness. The fear of birth goes out of the window.

Are You Concerned You May Have Postpartum Depression?

Once the baby arrives, delight soon turns to exhaustion and depression for some new mothers, and in some cases, new partners as well. A newborn's sleep and feeding schedule can be exhausting in the early months. Feeling chronically tired can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety and this leaves some parents wondering how to differentiate typical tiredness and other feelings from postpartum depression. Even with celebratory holidays, like Mother's Day and World Breastfeeding Week, it can still be difficult to adjust to new motherhood. 

Postpartum Depression: What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

How prevalent is postpartum depression (PPD)? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), as many as 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression. It's normal for new parents to be tired. It's not normal for them to feel hopelessly sad. Keep reading for other symptoms of postpartum depression, also sometimes called postnatal depression.

Are There Early Warning Signs?

It's quite normal to have a slight drop in mood within the first week or two after having a baby. That's because your body has gone through a lot of changes, physical and hormonal, within a short amount of time. Your body will generally start to regulate itself after a couple of weeks and what some people call "the baby blues" should subside about the same time.

While it's common to feel a little blue, parents of newborns shouldn't feel hopeless, and sadness as with the "baby blues" should decrease rather quickly, generally in two weeks or less. Feelings of sadness or guilt may occur occasionally, if they are overwhelming and last for days, it could be a sign of postpartum depression. New parents that have frequent crying spells or who feel inadequate as parents may be experiencing postpartum depression.

A new baby often feels like your whole world, but it shouldn't take away the joy that you find in small moments like laughing at something silly, being affectionate with your partner, or enjoying your meals. While having a child forever changes a person, it should not change who you are, what you enjoy, what you care about, and your self-esteem.

It's also normal to worry about being a good mom or good dad, especially if the baby is sick, premature, or has special needs of some kind. However, if the worry is continual or all-consuming, it is likely an indicator of postpartum depression.

What are Postpartum Depression (PPD) Symptoms?

The symptoms of PPD are similar to the symptoms of a depressive episode: feeling sad most of the day for more days than not, changes in appetite and sleep, loss of energy, not enjoying things one did previously, feeling worthless, ashamed, or guilty, feeling hopeless, restlessness, thoughts of suicide, and difficulty concentrating and making decisions. In addition, and specific to PDD, other symptoms include: difficulty bonding with the baby, excessive crying, excessive fear of not being a good mother, and in extreme situations, thoughts of harming the baby.

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, and is available 24/7.

If you have any thoughts of harming yourself or your baby or have a loved one who has these thoughts, immediate help is necessary. Call 911 or go to your nearest hospital.

Is There Such A Thing as PPD For Males?

According to a 2010 study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 10% of men across the globe experience a condition called paternal postpartum depression (PPPD).[1] The study was a meta-analysis (an analysis of postpartum depression statistics that combines the results of multiple studies) that takes over 28,000 participants into account based on studies between 1980 and 2009. The study was a meta-analysis (an analysis of statistics that combines the results of multiple studies) that takes over 28,000 participants into account based on studies between 1980 and 2009. Of particular note, instances of paternal postpartum depression were higher within the first 3 to 6 months of their new baby's life.

Are You Concerned You May Have Postpartum Depression?

Researchers have noted that hormones seem to play a part in paternal postpartum depression, but they found another predictor that was even greater than that. A 2004 review of 20 studies showed that when their female partner has postpartum depression, the male spouse is twice as likely also to develop postpartum depression. Researchers concluded that maternal depression was the strongest indicator of paternal postpartum depression. The incidences of paternal depression ranged from 1.2% to 25.5% during the first postpartum year. In men whose partners also experienced postpartum depression, 24% to 50% of men dealt with paternal postpartum depression. Overall about 10% of men experience postpartum depression when their partner has a baby.

Most men noticed symptoms within a few days of their baby being born. Happiness at the sight of their newborn child soon turned to anxiety and fear. Many new partners believe that their baby hates them. Some believe that there is something wrong with their baby or begin to dislike the child and have regrets about deciding to have a baby.

Men and women who are going through postpartum depression tend to express their symptoms quite differently. Women express less to other people about how they feel, likely because most people expect the new mom to be happy. By contrast, men tend to express their feelings outwardly. Men may be fearful, angry, aggressive, irritable, and have a lot of anxiety. Some men turn to substance use, gambling, video games, or other addictive behaviors to help them cope. Paternal postpartum symptoms can also manifest physiologically by experiencing headaches, stomachaches, or other physical pains.

Do I Have Postpartum Depression?

As discussed above, it is normal to feel a wide range of emotions following the birth of your child. You will feel happy, exhausted, overwhelmed at your new responsibilities, a host of emotions. However, if you notice that you are feeling sad and it is not getting better, or that you are crying when you don't understand why, if you feel hopeless, overwhelmed at simple tasks and decisions, want to sleep all the time, or any of the other symptoms listed above, you will want to talk to your doctor. PPD is very treatable. And the sooner you talk to your doctor, the sooner you can start feeling better. If you have ANY thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, call 911 and do not wait to seek help.

What PPD Treatment Options Do I Have?

After talking to your doctor, they may suggest an antidepressant. There are some that are considered safe when breastfeeding and some that are not. Your doctor will tell you about the risks and benefits of medications and together you can make the best choice for you. Your doctor may also suggest counseling. Becoming a parent or having an additional child is a major life change. You might find that getting some new coping skills and having a place to express your feelings and fears is very beneficial.

Regardless of the type of treatment you choose, it's important to make healthy lifestyle choices. Get plenty of rest, eat healthy meals and snacks, and get a little exercise. It's also wise to set realistic expectations. New mothers may not be able to keep up with cleaning and other household activities as they did before the baby arrived. It's okay to scale back and do as much as you're able. This is a short period of time in the scheme of your life.

It's also important for mothers dealing with postpartum depression not to isolate themselves. Make a point to get together with friends. Pay attention to your hobbies. If someone makes an offer of helping with the baby, accept it and remind yourself that taking care of yourself will help you be the best mom you can be.

Where Can I Find Treatment?

Remember that postpartum depression is common and very treatable. The important thing is not to wait to seek treatment. It's better to be screened for postpartum depression right away so that treatment can begin, and you can start feeling like yourself again as soon as possible. If you are interested in counseling for PPD, you can talk to your doctor about a recommendation or you can search for therapists in your area.

If you are part of a mom's group, they might have some great recommendations. It is often hard to leave your house when you have a new baby. The great news is online therapy for postpartum depression is available at BetterHelp. You can have live video sessions, phone sessions, and live chats. You can also send messages, similar to email, on the secure platform. This can be very convenient for the new parent to be able to get affordable, quality mental health treatment from the comfort of your home! Help is just a few clicks away. All you need to get started is an internet connection and a smart phone, tablet, or computer!

You Don’t Have To Face Depression Alone. Our Experienced Counselors Can Help.

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