Postpartum Depression (Baby blues)

What is Postpartum Depression?

Having a baby can be the best time in a woman’s life – or the worst. About 10 to 15 percent of new mothers crash into postpartum depression (baby blues) and anxiety soon after giving birth. It does not matter if the birth was natural or done by Caesarian section. Postpartum depression is a serious medical emergency as many mothers suffering from it commit suicide.

Although postpartum depression is temporary, lasting from a few days to a couple of years, it needs prompt medical intervention to prevent mothers from attempting suicide. The cause of postpartum depression is unknown.

What are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?

Mothers with postpartum depression feel worthless and are convinced that they are bad mothers that will eventually may harm or kill their babies. Mothers may suffer mood swings, crying spells, become angry for little reason, suffer sleep problems, feel tired all of the time and may lose their appetites. They may become withdrawn and not want to interact with their families or babies. They no longer find anything in life worth living for. Things that used to bring joy now leave the woman feeling numb.

Eventually affected women may think that they are incurable and plan to commit suicide.

How is Postpartum Depression Treated?

The good news is that postpartum depression is often easily treatable with antidepressant medications, mood stabilizers or anti-psychotics. If the drugs are not effective and the woman tried to commit suicide, then electroconvulsive therapy (also known as shock treatment) may be the only alternative to save the woman’s life. Some women do best with a combination of medications and talk therapy. Getting more rest and talking to new moms in person or online can help relive feelings of unworthiness. Reading books on postpartum depression helps a woman to know she is not alone and is not incurable.

If breastfeeding, your doctor may advise you to switch your baby to formula so there are no side effects from drinking breast milk tainted with antidepressants. Not all women need to stop breastfeeding when on antidepressants.

WARNING: Alcohol and recreational drugs can interact badly with medications and should be avoided. Alcohol is a depressant and can worsen postpartum depression symptoms.

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Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
August 29, 2017