Postpartum Mental Health

Many women struggle with feeling overwhelmed after the birth of their baby. Once the excitement of birth wears off and the fatigue sets in, it's very common to be happy one moment and sad the next. These feelings are normal, but if they become difficult to manage or if it doesn’t feel like they are getting better after a few weeks, you should talk your healthcare provider.

Many new moms feel like they need to be Superwoman; they need to handle everything on their own and that they should have this all figured out. But just like with anything else, there is a learning curve to being a new mom. It may take time to adjust to the changes in your life and in your family. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s actually a sign of strength. Your healthcare providers are ready to help you, as they have so many other moms adjusting to the hormonal and physical changes in their bodies, lack of sleep, and new demands.

What are postpartum “baby blues?”

“Baby Blues” refers to the emotional swings that are common after you have a baby. Baby blues are temporary. As you recover after giving birth and start to get more established into your role as a mom, you will have a more stable mood.

What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is more serious. That's when these emotions do not go away. It's not just crying too much, it's feeling consistently hopeless and overwhelmed. If your “baby blues” lasts for more than two weeks, you should tell your healthcare provider.

Postpartum depression doesn’t always develop immediately after giving birth. It's often identified at your six-week checkup, but it can also be diagnosed later.

What causes postpartum depression?

We don’t entirely know what causes postpartum depression, but we know hormones play a large role. The hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy and after you have your baby are often protective; they help you to bond with your baby. However, these changes can also make things feel more stressful. The combination of physical and emotional stress after delivery can be challenging.

We know that some women are more at risk for postpartum depression than others, including women who have a history of mental illness, like anxiety or depression, prior to or during pregnancy, or women that have fewer resources or live in poverty.

How common is postpartum depression?

One out of ten women will have symptoms of postpartum depression. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, know that you are not alone, and your healthcare provider can help.

When should I seek help?

Every woman will be screened for mental health issues during and after her pregnancy. Before leaving the hospital or birthing center, you may be asked to fill out a questionnaire or be asked questions about how you are doing, such as:

  • How are you coping?
  • How you are sleeping?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed?
  • Are you having any thoughts of hurting yourself or hurting your baby?

The answers to these questions will help your healthcare provider monitor closely for early signs of postpartum depression (as opposed to typical “baby blues”) and make sure you have any resources you need.

If you ever feel like you are at risk of hurting yourself or hurting you baby, this is an emergency. You should immediately call your healthcare provider. Do not hesitate to dial 9-1-1 and get the help you and your baby need.

What treatments are available for postpartum depression?

If you're diagnosed with postpartum depression, your healthcare provider will work with you to create a care plan based on your individual needs. Treatment can include:

  • Medications
  • Therapy (group or individual)
  • Exercise
  • Mindfulness exercises like meditation

Having a baby is an exciting and emotional experience. Your whole healthcare team is here to support you as a new mom. The best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to communicate with your support systems – your healthcare providers, family, and friends. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and help is available.