Originally found on WebMD.com.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
It’s the type of depression you may get after you have a baby. It can start any time during your baby’s first year, but it’s most common for you to start to feel its effects during the first 3 weeks after birth.
If you have it, you might feel sad, hopeless, and guilty because you may not feel like you want to bond with, or care for, your baby.
Why Do You Get It?
There are many causes, including:
Hormones. Your hormone levels rise when you’re pregnant. After your baby is born, they drop suddenly. This quick change can trigger depression in some women. (If you ever feel moody before you get your period, you know how hormones can affect you.)
History of depression. If you’ve had depression before, or it runs in your family, you may be more likely to have postpartum depression.
Stress and problems. If you didn’t want to be pregnant, or your partner and family don’t help you care for your baby, you’re more likely to become depressed as a new mom. The condition is also more common among women with money issues, problems with drugs or alcohol, or other big sources of stress.
Very young women who aren’t prepared to care for or support a baby are also at risk.
Yours might not be the same as for other women, but there are common things to look out for:
- Sadness, loss of hope, despair
- Feeling unable to care for your baby or do basic chores
- Crying a lot, sometimes for no real reason
- Trouble feeling close to your baby, or “bonding”
- Less interest in food, sex, self-care and other things you used to enjoy
- Too much sleep
- Trouble with focus, learning, or memory
Diagnosis and Treatment
Only a doctor can diagnose you with postpartum depression. But if you think you have it, make an appointment right away. If it’s postpartum depression, there are treatments that will get you back to feeling like yourself again.
Medication. Your doctor might decide prescribing you antidepressants will help. These drugs help balance certain brain chemicals linked to depression. Most are safe to take while you breastfeed. Just be sure to let your doctor know if you’re nursing.
Counseling. Talking to a psychologist or therapist also can be a great help. You can learn ways to recognize when you’re having negative thoughts so you know how to deal with them better. You may even discuss past relationships or stresses and learn how to work through those so they don’t affect your life now.
What Else Helps?
If you’ve been diagnosed with postpartum depression, there are many things you can do to help yourself feel better as you work through your treatment.
- Exercise daily.
- Include fun things in your day.
- Meet simple goals.
- Surround yourself with people who care.