Symptoms

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: September 2023

Editor’s Note: For simplicity and ease of reading, in this community, we use the term “mothers” to refer to pregnant people and those who have given birth. But we want to acknowledge that not all people who can get pregnant identify as women and that some people who give birth identify as men or nonbinary. We also recognize that parenthood exists in many forms, including adoptive and foster parenthood. Health Union strives to create an inclusive space while providing accurate health information.

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a common condition that affects about 1 in 7 women after childbirth. Knowing its symptoms is the first step toward seeking help and getting treatment.1

Postpartum depression versus the “baby blues”

During the course of pregnancy and childbirth, the body undergoes many hormonal changes. During pregnancy, there is a surge in estrogen and progesterone. These hormones play vital roles in maintaining the pregnancy and preparing the body for childbirth. After delivery, these hormone levels drop quickly, which can have a strong effect on mood.1-3

It is common to feel temporary sadness or moodiness right after giving birth, often called the “baby blues.” Hormonal shifts can bring on these feelings. They tend to develop 2 to 3 days after giving birth and can last for up to 2 weeks, until hormones level out.2,3

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Symptoms of the baby blues include:2,3

  • Mood swings
  • Crying spells
  • Feeling sad, anxious, or overwhelmed
  • Trouble sleeping

PPD, on the other hand, is much more severe and long-lasting than the baby blues. It involves more intense and persistent emotions that can impact your ability to care for yourself and your baby.1-3

What are the symptoms?

While every person’s experience is unique, there are common symptoms of postpartum depression that new parents should be aware of. PPD symptoms can include:1-3

  • Feelings of overwhelming sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness that do not improve over time
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that once brought joy or satisfaction
  • Excessive tiredness (fatigue), even with plenty of rest, and having trouble performing daily tasks because of it
  • Changes in appetite, either increase or decrease
  • Changes in sleep, either being unable to sleep or excessive sleeping
  • Unexplained anger, irritability, or mood swings that are out of character
  • Feeling overwhelmed or an inability to perform usual tasks
  • Overwhelming feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or self-blame that affect daily functioning
  • Trouble bonding or connecting with your baby, feeling emotionally detached, or having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Physical aches and pains such as headaches, stomach problems, or muscle pain
  • Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things
  • Intense worry, anxiety, or panic attacks that interfere with daily life
  • Withdrawing from friends and family, avoiding social interactions, and feeling isolated

Your doctor likely will diagnose you with PPD if you have had these symptoms for 2 weeks or longer.1,2

When to seek help

If you notice these symptoms lasting for more than 2 weeks or if they are severe enough to disrupt your daily life, reach out to your doctor. They can provide guidance, diagnose the condition, and recommend treatment.1-3

If you are having thoughts of suicide, get help immediately. Call or text 988, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or use the Lifeline online chat to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. They have trained counselors available 24/7 to provide support and guidance.3

Where to get support

For many new mothers, it can be hard to admit to feeling depressed. But having PPD is not a sign of weakness or failure. Many women go through this, and there are many resources available to provide support.2,3

Treatment options can include therapy, support groups, medicine, or a combination of these. Speak with your doctor or a mental health professional to understand what is right for you.1-3

Caring for a newborn takes a village. Reach out to friends, family, and your partner for emotional support and help with daily tasks. Discuss your feelings openly so that the people in your life can provide the support you need. It is okay to ask for help when needed. Remember, you do not have to go through this alone.1,2

Finally, be sure to take care of yourself. Prioritize sleep, engage in activities you enjoy, and make time for relaxation. Postpartum depression is treatable. Seeking help early can make a big difference in recovery.1-3