What is postpartum depression?

There’s a preconception that the weeks and months after giving birth are supposed to be the happiest time for a woman. And that makes it extra hard to admit to yourself or tell someone if you’re actually struggling and feeling sad during your pregnancy or after you give birth. You may have heard about the “baby blues,” or feeling a little down after you deliver. But postpartum depression is something more.

Postpartum depression, or PPD, is more persistent and lasts longer than the baby blues, and it’s a lot more common than people think — one out of every seven new moms will experience it. In fact, it is so common it’s considered the number-one complication of pregnancy.

Postpartum depression isn’t just about the situation. It’s a mix of significant changes in your body with the added pressure of becoming responsible for a baby. Giving birth creates waves of rapidly changing hormones, sometimes giving way to sad and hopeless thoughts. For many, this period of “baby blues” doesn’t last long. For others, these feelings just won’t stop.

Postpartum depression can affect women from every socioeconomic background, race, and age, even if you don’t have a history of depression, and even if you feel like you don’t have a reason to be upset. Moms with more than one child may experience PPD after their second or third pregnancy, even if they felt fine after their first. No matter what your situation is, postpartum depression absolutely does not mean you’re a bad mom, and it is not your fault.

Like pregnancy and birth, postpartum depression can be a different experience for every individual woman. But there are some commons signs to watch for:

  • Loss of pleasure or interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Feeling of sadness most of the time
  • Change in appetite
  • Feeling guilty about not being a good enough mother
  • Feeling irritable or having a low frustration tolerance
  • Feeling indecisive or angry
  • Lack of focus or having feelings that you don’t care about anything
  • Struggling to interact or connect with your baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Feeling like a whole different person
  • Thoughts of self-harm or harm to baby

If any of these sound like they might be affecting you, your partner, or another new mom in your life, please say something. Postpartum depression does not go away on its own, so it’s important to get help as soon as you feel like something is wrong. Your OB-GYN, pediatrician, or family doctor are great places to start. They can help you figure out a game plan for feeling better, which might involve therapy, medication (yes, even if you’re breastfeeding), or a combination of both. They might also be able to connect you with a group of other moms who are going through the same thing in your area. And if they can’t help, keep asking someone else until you are heard.

Postpartum depression can feel like a really challenging, scary thing, but it is treatable. And with treatment, it will eventually go away.

If you’re feeling really bad and help can’t come soon enough, please call for help right away:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

National Postpartum Depression Hotline

1-800-PPD-MOMS

Postpartum Support International

Call 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD) English and Spanish

Text 503-894-9453

Available 24 hours a day, you will be asked to leave a confidential message and a trained and caring volunteer will return your call or text. They will listen, answer questions, offer encouragement, and connect you with local resources as needed.

For more information, visit Women’s Behavioral Health at Allegheny Health Network.

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If you feel that you’re in deep depression and you fear that there is immediate danger, such as self-harm or harm to your baby, please call 911 or 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) for help.

To find support and resources outside of Western PA, contact Postpartum Support International at postpartum.net or call 1-800-944-4773.

To find out more information about how AHN Women is innovating the treatment of postpartum depression and anxiety, follow AHN on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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