Perinatal Depression – It’s More Than
the Baby Blues
Many new mothers experience the Baby Blues. This is
a very common reaction during the first few days after
delivery. Symptoms include crying, worrying, sadness,
anxiety, mood swings, trouble concentrating, difficulty
sleeping, and not feeling yourself.
The Baby Blues is not the same as Perinatal Depression
and does not require medical attention. With time, patience,
and the support of family and friends, symptoms linked
with the Baby Blues will usually disappear within a
few days or within 1 to 2 weeks. If they don’t,
it may be a sign of a bigger problem, and you should
seek medical help
What Causes Perinatal Depression?
There are a number of reasons why you may get depressed.
As a woman, your body undergoes many changes during
and after pregnancy. You may experience mood swings.
A new baby will change your sleeping schedule and your
lifestyle. In addition, there are many pressures to
be the perfect mother.
Some women have family members with depression, some
women have had depression in their own past, and for
some women, the cause is unclear. But for every woman
who suffers Perinatal Depression, the causes are as
unique as she is.
Who Is at Risk?
Perinatal Depression can affect any woman —
regardless of age, race, income, culture, or education.
It affects women who breastfeed and those who don’t.
It affects women with healthy babies and those whose
children are ill. It affects first-time mothers and
those with more than one child. It affects women who
are married and those who are not. Women who had problems
during pregnancy—and those who didn’t—
may experience depression. Because Perinatal Depression
is a health problem, it is not the fault of any woman.
A family history of depression or bipolar disorder,
a history of alcohol or drug abuse, a recent stressful
event, relationship or financial problems, or a previous
pregnancy with Perinatal Depression increases a woman’s
chances of having Perinatal Depression.
Types of Perinatal Depression
Even before the arrival of the baby, some women experience
Depression During Pregnancy. Pregnant women commonly
face a large number of challenges, including morning
sickness, weight gain, and mood swings. Symptoms such
as feeling really tired, appetite changes and poor sleep
are often dismissed as “just part of pregnancy,”
but if the things you do every day are affected, you
should consider seeking help. Whether the pregnancy
was planned or unexpected, the changes that your body
and emotions go through during pregnancy are very real — and
so are the risks of Perinatal Depression during this
Depression During and After Pregnancy
About one in eight women suffers a form of Perinatal
Depression known as Postpartum Depression. Symptoms
can begin at birth or any time in the first year after
Common symptoms for perinatal depression include:
- Sad feelings
- Feeling very anxious or worrying too much
- Being irritable or cranky
- Trouble sleeping (even when tired) or sleeping too
- Trouble concentrating or remembering things
- Trouble making decisions
- Loss of interest in caring for yourself (for example,
dressing, bathing, fixing hair)
- Loss of interest in food, or overeating
- Not feeling up to doing everyday tasks
- Frequent crying, even about little things
- Showing too much (or not enough) concern for the
- Loss of pleasure or interest in things you used
to enjoy (including sex)
A very small number of women (one or two in 1000) suffer
a rare and severe form of Perinatal Depression called
Postpartum Psychosis. Women who have a bipolar disorder
or other psychiatric problem may have a higher risk
for developing this form of Perinatal Depression.
Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis may include:
- Extreme confusion
- Cannot sleep (even when exhausted)
- Refusing to eat
- Distrusting other people
- Seeing things or hearing voices that are not there
- Thoughts of hurting yourself, your baby, or others
If you or someone you know fits this description,
please seek medical help immediately. This is a medical
emergency requiring URGENT care.
I was so excited I decorated
the nursery months before the
baby arrived. But when she came,
it was not a dream. I had no energy
to smile or even to cry. I didn’t
even want to pick her up. This
was not how I thought it was going
to be, and I was ashamed of how
I just wish that I could laugh and be happy. When will my sadness go away?