You may experience hormonal changes as a result of “coming off of” pregnancy hormones and going back to normal hormonal levels. Or you may have guilt and fear, feel helpless, be confused, and be unable to perform the simplest of daily tasks.
I just had a baby. Why do I feel so down?
If you’re a brand-new mom who expected to be full of joy at this point, it can be upsetting and confusing when you’re actually feeling the opposite. Rest assured, you’re not alone: Anywhere from 40 to 80 percent of new mothers experience the baby blues – an emotional state of tearfulness, unhappiness, worry, self-doubt, and fatigue. The baby blues typically begin a few days after delivery and go away on their own within a week or two.
However, if your feelings seem unusually intense and have lasted longer than two weeks straight, you may be wondering whether you have a more serious condition. It may come as a surprise, but you could have postpartum depression (PPD).
What is postpartum depression?
Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between clinical depression and the normal stress and exhaustion of new parenthood. But if your feelings of sadness or despair are so powerful that they prevent you from being able to do your daily tasks – such as caring for yourself and others – you could have PPD.
About 10 percent of new mothers develop PPD, but some experts believe the number is even higher because many women don’t seek treatment. If you’re struggling, see your healthcare provider right away for a mental health screening.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, postpartum depression can begin in the weeks after pregnancy or even before. (About half of women with PPD have symptoms during pregnancy.)
If your provider thinks you have depression any time after you give birth, she may refer you to a counselor and prescribe antidepressant medication, if necessary, or refer you to a psychiatrist for treatment. Whether you’re diagnosed with depression before, during, or after pregnancy, getting treatment is important.
What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
The symptoms of PPD and depression that occurs before or during pregnancy are the same. You could have PPD if you experience five or more of the following symptoms almost every day, for most of the day, for at least two consecutive weeks:
- Extreme sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
- Crying all the time