After giving birth, mothers are expected to feel a wide array of emotions. Many women feel intense joy and affection for their tiny infants, while others may feel over-stressed, overworked, and under-appreciated. Although these may just seem like the “baby blues,” feeling sad or depressed after giving birth may point to something more serious: postpartum depression. Across the country, it is estimated about one in nine women will experience postpartum depression. Depending on where you live, the rate of postpartum depression can rise to one in five women. While this condition is more common than many people think, there is still a lack of information on how to identify symptoms of postpartum depression and how to find relief. What’s more, some symptoms may be very serious and should not be ignored.

What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is a condition suffered by a mother after she gives birth to her baby. Generally, the causes of postpartum depression vary by mother. Often times, however, postpartum depression can be attributed to hormonal changes in the body, fatigue, and the psychological adjustment to motherhood. In most situations, postpartum depression symptoms will arise within the first four to six weeks after a mother gives birth and rarely goes away on its own. The most common symptoms of postpartum depression include fatigue, feeling overwhelmed, difficulty sleeping, trouble eating, loss of interest in hobbies, lack of interest in your baby, and withdrawing from family and friends. Many new mothers will experience one or two of these symptoms after they give birth. If you or a new mother you know begins exhibiting several of these symptoms at once, postpartum depression may be the cause. Another more serious symptom of postpartum depression is having thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby. If you or someone you know begins to experience these thoughts, you should notify a doctor right away. This is the most dangerous symptom of postpartum depression and should be taken very seriously. Feeling stressed or overwhelmed after becoming a mom is normal. Experiencing harmful thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby should never, ever be ignored.

Lesser-known symptoms

General symptoms of postpartum depression are self-explanatory. The more uncommon symptoms are much more complicated. If you experience feelings of guilt or shame, this may be the postpartum depression talking. These feelings may make themselves known with thoughts such as “I’m not cut out to be a mom,” or “I don’t deserve to be a mom.” It’s very important to seek help – which can include reaching out to a friend or a family member – during this time. Another uncommon symptom of postpartum depression is anxiety. When mothers begin to feel the onset of postpartum depression, feeling anxious or nervous is often times the first sign something is wrong. Other symptoms from anxiety may include changes in eating and sleeping, racing thoughts, incessant worrying, and physical symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and hot flashes. If you’ve never experienced feelings of anxiety before, these symptoms may indicate the onset of postpartum depression. Mothers suffering from postpartum depression may also fantasize about leaving their new baby and their family for good. These fantasies of escape go way beyond wanting a vacation or a few baby-free hours during the day. In the darkest moments, you may have fantasies about killing yourself or getting killed in a freak accident. While these are signs of postpartum depression, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through them alone. If you or a new mom you know has thoughts of suicide, reach out to the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE or the National Postpartum Depression Hotline at 1-800-PPD-MOMS. You can also dial 9-1-1 to reach out to emergency services in your area. Remember, you are not alone. Your friends, family, and the new baby all love you, dearly.

How to find help

Some new moms may think these symptoms are normal when actually they are suffering from postpartum depression. In a lot of ways, postpartum depression is normal for new mothers. The real issue with postpartum depression is letting their symptoms go unnoticed or the condition untreated. If you have experienced any of the postpartum symptoms mentioned above, schedule a meeting with your doctor to discuss your situation. During this meeting, your doctor may talk with you about how you are feeling and your thoughts to determine if you have postpartum depression. It’s important to be completely honest with your doctor so they can diagnose your condition properly. Part of this diagnosis may also include blood tests to determine whether your hormones are contributing to how you feel or other physical tests. If your doctor does diagnose you with postpartum depression, treatment options may include psychotherapy, medication, or both. Your doctor may advise you to talk about your postpartum depression with a psychiatrist or other mental healthcare professional. Therapy can be very beneficial to mothers who suffer from postpartum depression by teaching them how to cope with their feelings and respond to symptoms in a positive way. Medications such as antidepressants are also an option, though it isn’t always necessary. Ask your doctor if there’s a specific medication they would suggest for your condition. Most antidepressants can be used while breastfeeding, eliminating the risk of the medication affecting the newborn baby. Be sure to follow through with your postpartum depression treatment per your doctor’s recommendation to avoid any relapse or the development of chronic depression. While postpartum depression may be difficult, you aren’t alone. Finding the help you need today will help create a better tomorrow for you and your baby.