Symptoms of postpartum depression can show up much later than moms expect

You’ve got a new baby at home, and everyone is telling you to savor the moment. But maybe you just … can’t.

So how do you know if you’re just suffering a case of the “baby blues” or if it’s postpartum depression or another postpartum mood disorders? Knowledge is power — and knowing the symptoms of postpartum depression so you can get the help you need to get well is key.

More: Do ideal images of motherhood impact postpartum depression?

Understanding postpartum depression is the first step on the road to recovery — and having a healthy, happy mom and baby.Sure, most celebrity moms look perfect and are all smiles in the days and weeks following childbirth — at least that’s what they look like in magazines or on TV. The truth is, many moms get the baby blues, and a number of moms get postpartum depression. However, many of those moms don’t talk about it because, let’s face it, there’s a stigma about postpartum depression and mental illness in general.

The baby blues

About 80 percent of new moms experience mood swings in the first few weeks after giving birth. Feeling teary, tired or overwhelmed is pretty normal. If you feel this way, symptoms should go away within a few days. It’s important to understand that baby blues is not the same thing as postpartum depression.

More: Is it baby blues or is it really depression?

Are you at risk?

If you have a history of depression or anxiety, you may be at increased risk for postpartum depression. Be sure to talk to your doctor or midwife during pregnancy, and if you have a history, you may want to have the postpartum depression talk before conceiving.

Understanding postpartum depression

According to Postpartum Support International (PSI), 15 to 20 percent of new moms have postpartum depression. And “postpartum” may surprise you — while many moms tend to think of postpartum as the six weeks after birth, postpartum depression symptoms can occur during the first 12 months after having a baby. PSI says symptoms of postpartum depression may include:

  • Feelings of anger or irritability
  • Lack of interest in the baby
  • Appetite and sleep disturbance
  • Crying and sadness
  • Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • Possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself

More: Learn more about signs of postpartum depression

Postpartum depression is just one type on the spectrum of postpartum mood disorders — PPMD.

Other forms of PPMD include postpartum anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or psychosis. PSI is a great resource where you can find out more and also get support in your community.

Treatment options

“It is important to get treatment because it can prevent bonding with the baby and being able to care for herself and the baby,” says Dr. Erika Nichelson, an OB/GYN at Mercy Hospital.

More: Mom’s raw postpartum photo shows real struggles new moms face

If you’re diagnosed with postpartum depression, you and your doctor will decide the best course of treatment for your specific situation. This may include talk therapy, medication or even hospitalization in extreme cases. The important thing is to get help — and not be ashamed to admit you may need it.

Watch this video for more about postpartum health


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