Is it just the "baby blues," or something more serious? While it's common for new moms to feel sad or moody after giving birth, intense emotions and disturbing thoughts for prolonged periods can be signs of postpartum depression (PPD). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 13 percent of women experience depression during and after pregnancy. Read on for the signs and symptoms of PPD so you can seek help if you think you or your partner might be suffering from this illness.
Thoughts of Self Harm or Harming Your Baby
Seek help from your doctor immediately if you begin to have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, as this is the most alarming and clear indication that you are suffering from more than the typical baby blues.
Intense Feelings of Sadness
Mood swings and bouts of crying are normal after childbirth, but if your feelings of sadness and anxiety are severe and last more than two weeks, it could be PPD.
Feeling anxious and irritable is also normal after giving birth, but these feelings should fade within a few days or a week. If they last longer than that and overwhelm your day-to-day life, talk to your doctor.
Extreme Changes in Appetite
Loss of appetite and weight loss, or alternatively, overeating and gaining a large amount of weight, are symptoms that should be discussed with your doctor. Of course, your body will still be adjusting after giving birth, and breastfeeding affects weight loss as well. Taken on their own, appetite and weight changes are not red flags, but consider whether they are coupled with other symptoms of PPD.
Drastic Change in Sleeping Patterns
All new parents are sleep-deprived and exhausted — that's a given. However, pay attention if you begin to suffer from insomnia, feel overwhelmingly fatigued, have no energy, and lose motivation to get up in the morning as these could be signs of a bigger problem.
Feelings of Worthlessness
Overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, guilt, shame, and doubting your ability to be a mother are signs that you are suffering from more than just the baby blues.
Chronic Aches and Pains
Persistent headaches, stomachaches, and general body aches that last longer than a few days to a week should be evaluated by your doctor.
Loss of Interest in Enjoyable Activities
Loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed, including hobbies, socializing, and spending time with friends and family, is a warning sign that should be brought to the attention of your doctor. Isolating yourself is not healthy and could be a sign of PPD.
No Interest in Caring for Your Baby
If you've found you have no desire to care for your baby, and are having trouble bonding, talk to your doctor. These are warning signs of depression.
You will naturally experience some sleep-deprived moments where you feel like you can't remember your own name, but extended periods of time where you can't concentrate and have trouble focusing should raise a red flag.
More Information on PPD
It's important to remember that, on their own, these signs and symptoms are typical for new moms. However, if you find you are suffering from intense, all-consuming anxiety, and your PPD symptoms don't fade after two weeks, get worse, interfere with your day-to-day life, and include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, seek professional help. Ask your partner to be aware of any warning signs, too — you may not be able to recognize them in yourself.
If you or your partner are exhibiting symptoms of PPD, call your doctor, or seek help from Postpartum Support International. PPD is treatable when you get appropriate help.