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Postpartum Depression

Depression is a feeling of being down and feeling hopeless. Postpartum depression is depression that occurs after giving birth. It can last a short time or for many months. It may occur quickly after giving birth or up to a year later. You can become depressed while you are pregnant. It most often occurs within three months after having your baby. About one out of 10 pregnant women and mothers experience postpartum depression.

Signs & symptoms

  • Lack of interest in your baby
  • Feeling bad toward your baby
  • Worrying about hurting your baby
  • Lack of concern for yourself
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Having feelings of guilt
  • Not feeling worthy
  • Changes in desire for food
  • Changes in weight
  • Sleeping more or less than normal
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Little things bother you a lot
  • Do not feel part of the world
  • Lack of pleasure or interest in most or all things
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lack of energy
  • Problems doing tasks at home or work
  • Feeling anxious
  • Crying
  • Thoughts that come in your mind that you cannot control

Am I at risk?

You will be screened:

  • At your first prenatal visit
  • When you are about 32 weeks pregnant
  • Before you go home after you give birth
  • During your 2-week well baby visit
  • During your 6-week postpartum visit
  • During your 4-month well baby visit

Your care team may offer the survey at other times as they see fit. We urge you to take the survey but you do not have to. It helps us know how things are going for you. You can decline at any point during your care.

If results show a need for further review, we may suggest:

  • Follow-up calls from a social worker, your doctor or a nurse
  • Reading books or brochures about depression

Your care team may also refer you to:

  • Your regular doctor or nurse
  • Behavioral Health
  • Support groups

Ask any member of your care team if you need help or would like to know more.

Types of depression

There are three types of pregnancy and birth-related mental states: baby blues, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.

Baby blues occur shortly after giving birth. Many of the feelings in baby blues are the same as depression. But baby blues often last less than two weeks. You are still able to take care of yourself and your baby when you have baby blues.

Postpartum depression symptoms are worse and last more than two weeks. Call your doctor if your baby blues:

  • Begin to get worse
  • Last more than two weeks

Postpartum psychosis is a rare and severe illness. It occurs in about 1-4 out of every 1,000 births. It often begins within the first 2 weeks after childbirth. Women who have a history of mental illness are at higher risk for this.

If you have this illness, you may not see that you have a problem. You are at a high risk for harming yourself or your baby. Your family or friends may have to get help for you. They should call your doctor right away if you show any of these signs.

  • Seeing things that are not there
  • Feeling confused
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Trying to hurt yourself or your baby
  • Losing touch with reality
  • Bizarre thoughts
  • Ideas and thoughts about God and church
  • Major mood swings

When should I get help?

Call your doctor if:

  • Your baby blues don't go away after 2 weeks
  • Symptoms get more and more intense
  • Symptoms begin any time after giving birth, even many months later
  • It is hard for you to perform tasks at work or at home
  • You cannot care for yourself or your baby
  • You have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

How can I take care of myself?

Sleep

Sleep can be a big issue. It may be hard to get enough sleep with a new baby. Lack of sleep may impact your mood and overall mental and emotional health. Put yourself first. Take some time to nap or just rest during the day. You can do this while the baby naps or when you have a break. Being a mother is a full-time job and you deserve downtime. Housework and other tasks can wait.

Social support

Social support may be helpful. Social support can:

  • Offer guidance
  • Boost your spirits
  • Help in decision making
  • Lend an ear to listen

Support from others is a major part of coping. There is a comfort that comes from others who have gone through the same things. It is good to share time with others who can relate to you and your issues. Finding mom's groups, support groups or even just friends who are mothers can provide social support. To find support groups in your area, call Great Rivers 2-1-1: Dial 2-1-1 or (800) 362-8255. TTY (866) 884-3620 (Toll free in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa) or visit greatrivers211.org

Foods to avoid

Caffeine may worsen anxiety, mood swings and being unable to sleep. Alcohol and other drugs impact your mood. Avoid drugs and limit drinks to 1-2 per week. Sugar may give you a quick high and then cause you to crash later. This affects your mood, being able to think clearly and overall mental health.

Physical activity

Being active is good for your health and will help to improve your mood. The thought of being active while you are depressed can sound like too much. Even something as simple as a 20-minute walk can boost your mood. Studies show that a medium to fast walk may cut symptoms for those who have mild to moderate depression. It may be hard to do with a new baby, but even a little exercise is good. Find something you enjoy. Having something to look forward to will help you be more active. 

More ways to cope

  • Know that postpartum depression is common. Do not blame yourself. It can be treated.
  • Accept help from others. Tell them what you want them to do. It could be housework, childcare or just someone to talk to.
  • Plan things to look forward to and be active in.
  • Know who you can talk with about your needs. Consider seeing a counselor.
  • Believe that you will feel better. Be glad on the days that you do feel good. Know that there will still be some tough days.
  • Do something just for you each week – something you enjoy. Allow yourself some time to go outside your role as mother, wife or partner.

Resources

Webpages and books

The following books are available in Gundersen’s resource libraries:

  • Beyond the blues: a guide to understanding and treating prenatal and postpartum depression by Shoshana S. Bennett
  • A deeper shade of blue: a women’s guide to recognizing and treating depression in her childbearing years by Ruta Nonacs
  • Postpartum depression and anxiety: a self-help guide for mothers by the Pacific Post Partum Support Society
  • Postpartum depression demystified: an essential guide to understanding and overcoming the most common complication after childbirth by Joyce A. Venis
  • The postpartum husband: practical solutions for living with postpartum depression by Karen Kleiman
  • Rebuild from depression: a nutrient guide, including depression in pregnancy and postpartum by Amanda Rose with Annell Adams
  • After the stork: the couple’s guide to preventing and overcoming postpartum depression by Sara Rosenquist
Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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