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Postpartum depression more than the baby blues Children's Wisconsin

Postpartum depression: More than the baby blues

Becoming a mom changes you forever — not only physically but emotionally. How could you not be altered by suddenly having a tiny person who relies on you and who you love and want to protect more fiercely than you could have imagined?

Moms and dads have a wide range of feelings during this challenging time, and that can include depression. In fact, depression and anxiety are the most common complications of childbirth. 

What is postpartum depression?

Most women — about 80 percent — experience the “baby blues” immediately after birth. This is a normal, temporary phase when moms may have mood swings, tearfulness, difficulty sleeping or changes in appetite. Baby blues arrive within a week of delivery and typically disappear within two weeks after hormones level out.

Postpartum depression is different — but not uncommon. About 6 to 20 percent of women experience this condition, but only 15 percent get treatment. Signs of postpartum depression include:

  • Changes on weight or appetite

  • Depressed mood

  • Difficulty concentrating or sleeping

  • Excessive guilt or worry

  • Feeling more irritable or angry

  • Loss of interest in activities that used to interest you

  • Recurrent upsetting thoughts

  • Severe fatigue

  • Suicidal ideation 

  • Worthlessness

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms for longer than two weeks after your child is born — or if they are interfering with your ability to take care of your baby — talk to your doctor or your child’s pediatrician right away.

Effects on the whole family

Not only is postpartum depression or anxiety harmful for moms, but it can also be harmful to their children. A mother’s depression can, over time, negatively impact a baby’s development in several ways:

  • Less opportunity for infant/mother bonding, which can interfere with breastfeeding and mother-child attachment

  • Cognitive delays, including increased time to detect faces and less exploration

  • Increased behavioral problems in preschoolers and adolescent

Moms aren’t the only ones to suffer from postnatal depression — one in 10 dads experience it, too. The highest risk for dads is three to six months after delivery, and symptoms may come on more gradually than a mothers. Just like maternal depression, paternal depression can negatively affect infant care or bonding and can add stress to the family.

Getting help

Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and recovery is possible with the right support and treatment. The good news is that postpartum depression treatments are well-researched and very effective.

So, if you think you may have postpartum depression or anxiety, get it out in the open. Speak with your doctor or your child’s pediatrician.

If you are in crisis or experiencing thoughts of self-harm, take immediate action. If you have suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.