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October 2019

After-Pregnancy Blues: Cause for Concern?

Up to 4 in 5 new moms feel sad, anxious, overwhelmed, or just plain tired after giving birth. It’s no wonder so many new mothers get the “baby blues.” Even if delivery went well, mothers are bound to be short on sleep and long on responsibilities.

Mother looking sad with baby on her lap

Most women get the baby blues within a few days of giving birth. These feelings usually disappear 3 to 5 days after they start.

When the blues stick around

If a new mother’s blues persist longer than 2 weeks, she may have a more serious condition called postpartum depression (PPD). It’s also possible to develop PPD during pregnancy or up to a year after childbirth.

The following signs may indicate PPD:

  • Crying more often than usual (or for no apparent reason)

  • Losing interest or pleasure in activities that are usually enjoyable

  • Eating too little or too much

  • Feeling moody, irritable, restless, or angry

  • Having no energy or motivation

  • Oversleeping or being unable to fall asleep

  • Having a lack of interest in the baby

  • Constantly doubting ability to care for the baby

  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions

  • Feeling worthlessness, hopeless, or guilty

  • Thinking about hurting oneself or the baby

PPD affects 1 in 9 new mothers. It can make it hard for women to get through the day and undermine the confidence they need to care for their baby. Untreated, PPD could even interfere with the baby’s development.

Pinpointing PPD

PPD can be easy to ignore. After all, tiredness and other symptoms may result from sleep loss. A healthcare provider can determine whether symptoms are springing from another health condition. Anemia, for example, can make you feel tired and irritable. Thyroid disorders can also cause symptoms similar to PPD.

Who is at risk?

Any new mother can get PPD. But a woman’s health history and current circumstances can influence her odds.

Factors that increase the risk for PPD include having:

  • Medical complications during childbirth

  • Personal history of depression or bipolar disorder

  • Relationship or money problems

  • Stressful life events during pregnancy or right after giving birth

  • Little social support

What to do about PPD

PPD can be treated with talk therapy, medicine, or both. Your provider can help you choose the right treatment.

If you suffer from PPD, the following coping strategies may also help:

  • Find a trusted friend or family member to talk with.

  • Seek help with childcare, household chores, and errands.

  • Take time each day to do something special for yourself.

  • Rest as much as you can—sleep when the baby does.

  • Join a support group for mothers with PPD.


Online Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2019
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