Identifying Postpartum Depression in New Moms

Recognize the warning signs.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), symptoms of postpartum depression can affect as many as 25 percent of women after childbirth and can last as long as a year.

“The five major causes of postpartum depression are changes in hormone levels, a history of depression, fatigue, and emotional and lifestyle factors,” says Michael Tiffany, DO, FACOG, OB/GYN at Prevea Health. “Certain circumstances can also make you more prone to postpartum depression, such as having little social support or a traumatic birth experience.”

Common postpartum depression symptoms include:

  • Crying more or for no apparent reason
  • Feeling depressed, anxious, upset, or angry
  • Having trouble sleeping, eating, making choices, or bonding with the baby
  • Losing interest in activities
  • Questioning whether you can care for the baby
  • Withdrawing from loved ones

Seeking Help

The ACOG recommends OB/GYNs screen women for postpartum depression one to two weeks after giving birth and again at their six-week checkup. However, you should not wait to seek help if you start to notice any red flags. Make an appointment with your OB/GYN, primary care physician, or a mental health provider—whomever you feel most comfortable talking to—as soon as possible. He or she will be able to support you and provide access to treatments that can help you recover. This often includes a combination of psychotherapy and medication, such as an antidepressant.

Additionally, Dr. Tiffany recommends taking some time for yourself.

“Take a break,” he says. “Arrange for daycare, get out of the house, go for coffee, and engage with friends. If you need to bring the baby along, that’s okay, but make an effort to reestablish some of those relationships outside the home that were a vital part of your identity and social structure before you got pregnant.”

 If you think you may be struggling with postpartum depression, contact your physician or find a provider.

Mom guilt, the nagging feeling that you are not a good parent, often goes hand in hand with postpartum depression.

“The desire to perform as the best mom possible can often lead to an unending battle with self-doubt,” says Elizabeth Taylor, RN, Women and Infants Nurse at HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital. “These daily feelings of guilt and anxiety can quickly build up and devolve into postpartum depression.”

No Need to Be Supermom

Start to let mom guilt go by getting rid of any “supermom” images you hold in your head, forgiving yourself when you make mistakes, resisting the urge to compare yourself to other moms, and being willing to seek the help of a mental health provider when the going gets rough.

“We all want to feel like we have everything under control, but it is okay to ask for help,” Taylor says. “Letting go of mom guilt does not make you a bad mom. It makes you a great mom because you are strong enough to reach out for support.”

You may also be interested in “Talk with Your Baby to Build Life Skills.”