Postpartum depression is relatively common. According to some reports, up to 20 percent of new parents will experience this condition, or one in seven. With approximately 4 million live births occurring in the United States, this means that there are approximately 600,000 postpartum depression diagnoses every year. Six hundred thousand. And yet, postpartum depression is still highly stigmatized. The mental health condition remains very misunderstood.
“Postpartum depression (PPD) is one of the most common complications of childbirth,” an article by Psych Central explains. “Yet, it’s exceedingly misunderstood — even by medical and mental health professionals.”
So what is postpartum depression and, more importantly, what are the most common signs and symptoms? Here’s everything you need to know about postpartum depression.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a form of depression which affects new parents after the birth of their child. “Postpartum depression is a complex mix of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that happen in some women after giving birth,” an article on WebMD explains. “According to the DSM-5, a manual used to diagnose mental disorders, PPD is a form of major depression that begins within 4 weeks after delivery. [However,] the diagnosis of postpartum depression is based not only on the length of time between delivery and onset but on the severity of the depression.”
What causes it?
While many individuals assume they did something wrong if they develop PPD, postpartum depression is not a defect of character, nor is it your fault. Rather, numerous factors may put you at risk, including a history of depression and/or mental illness, your age at the time of pregnancy, and/or stress. Having a child with disabilities or health problems and/or having triplets or twins also increases your odds of developing PPD.
What are the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression?
The signs and symptoms of PPD vary from person-to-person, and case-to-case; however, some of the most common symptoms include:
Most individuals with postpartum depression will feel and/or experience a profound sense of sadness. Feelings of helplessness and/or hopelessness are also common. And while the presence of these feelings does not mean you have PPD — most new parents are scared, despondent, and lost — if you experience frequent crying spells and/or regularly feel unhappy about being a parent, you may have postpartum depression.
Another common symptom of postpartum depression is apathy, or andenonia. “When you hear postpartum depression, many people immediately think of crying jags, sadness, or an inability to get out of bed every day,” an article on What to Expect explains. “But postpartum depression symptoms can manifest in a wide variety of emotions, including anger, apathy, guilt, fear, and avoidance.”
Loss of interest in things you enjoy
Are you crying during your favorite comedy? Does your favorite meal suddenly taste bland? If so, speak with your doctor, as a loss of pleasure or interest is a tell-tale sign things are amiss.
Difficulty making decisions
When you’re depressed, small decisions can be daunting, i.e. deciding to get up and get out of bed can feel like a chore, and the same is true of postpartum depression. “If you can’t decide whether or not to get out of bed, take a shower, change your baby’s diaper, or take them for a walk, these may be early signs of postpartum depression,” WebMD explains.
Crying all the time, often for no reason
In addition to feeling sad, many individuals living with postpartum depression will cry suddenly and without warning. When I had my oldest, I cried over everything. A cup of cold coffee could set me off, as could the news or spilled milk. If you are experiencing sudden and seemingly unprovoked crying spells, speak to your doctor.
Severe anger and/or agitation
While running hot or having a short-temper may seem like a personal problem, anger, rage, and agitation are actually signs of postpartum depression. “Postpartum rage can feel like a seething, simmering feeling. Or it can feel like an explosion,” an article on Very Well Family explains. “You may feel out of control, physically and mentally, [and] you may find yourself yelling or even feel the impulse to hurt your partner or your baby.”
Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness
Do you feel overburdened? Overwhelmed? Does your situation seem hopeless, like there’s no end in sight? If you feel insignificant and small and/or like you’re treading water but cannot come up for air, you may be suffering from postpartum depression.
Thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else
While most individuals with postpartum depression do not have thoughts of self-mutilation or harm, “thoughts of suicide [and/]or hurting yourself or your baby are advanced signs of postpartum depression and even postpartum psychosis, a rare and serious mental illness that happens with postpartum depression,” WebMD explains. If you’re having any kind of suicidal thoughts, call your doctor immediately and/or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255,
Other signs and symptoms of postpartum depression may include::
- Trouble sleeping
- Appetite changes
- Severe fatigue
- Frequent mood changes
How is postpartum depression treated?
The good news is that, while postpartum depression is difficult to live with, the condition does not last forever. “There are two main treatments for postpartum depression,” an article on Healthline explains. Medication and therapy. “Either one can be used alone, but they may be more effective when used together. It’s also important to make some healthy choices in your daily routine.” With proper care and treatment, most women feel better within six months, though it can take longer.