If you have the "baby blues" after childbirth, you're not
alone. About half of women have a few days of mild depression after they have a
baby. This can be upsetting, but it's normal to have some insomnia, irritability, tears, overwhelmed feelings, and mood swings. Baby blues usually peak around the fourth day after the baby is born. They tend to improve in
less than 2 weeks, when hormonal changes have settled down. But you can have
bouts of baby blues throughout your baby's first year.
depressed feelings have lasted more than 2 weeks, your body isn't recovering
from childbirth as expected. Postpartum depression:
- Is a serious medical condition. Without treatment, it can last a long time and make it hard for you to function. And it can affect your baby's development.
- Is best treated with counseling and an antidepressant
- Can further improve with home treatment.
To prevent serious problems for you and your baby, work with your doctor now to treat your symptoms.
are having thoughts of hurting yourself, your baby, or anyone else,
see your doctor immediately or call 911 for emergency medical
How is postpartum depression treated?
a medical condition that requires treatment. It's not a sign of weakness. Be
honest with yourself and those who care about you. Tell them about your
struggle. You, your doctor, and your friends and family can team up to treat
your postpartum depression symptoms.
Talk to your doctor about
your symptoms. Work together to decide what type of treatment
is right for you. (You may also have your
thyroid function checked. This test is to make sure that a thyroid
problem isn't causing your symptoms.)
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy with a
supportive counselor. This is recommended for all women who have postpartum
depression. It can also help prevent postpartum depression. A cognitive-behavioral counselor can
also teach you skills to help you manage anxiety. These skills include deep breathing and
- Interpersonal counseling. It focuses on your
relationships and the personal changes that come with having a new baby. It
gives you emotional support and helps you solve problems and set goals.
- Antidepressant medicine, ideally along with counseling.
Even if you breast-feed, you can take an antidepressant
for postpartum depression. Breast-feeding offers many emotional and physical benefits for both
baby and mother. So experts are studying which antidepressants are most safe for
breast-feeding babies. Whether or not you breast-feed, your doctor is likely to recommend a selective serotonin
reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
Tricyclic antidepressants, excluding doxepin (Silenor,
Zonalon), can also be used by women who breast-feed.
Breast-feeding babies whose mothers take an antidepressant
do not often have side effects. But they can. If you are taking an antidepressant
while breast-feeding, talk to your doctor and your baby's doctor about what
types of side effects to look for.
- Schedule outings and visits with friends and
family. Ask them to call you often. Isolation can make depression
worse, especially when it's combined with the stress of caring for a
- Get as much sunlight as you can. Keep your shades and
curtains open. And get outside as much as you can.
- Eat a balanced
diet. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. If you don't feel hungry, eat small snacks
throughout the day. Nutritional supplement shakes are also useful for keeping
up your energy.
- Get some exercise every day, such as outdoor
stroller walks. Exercise helps improve mood.
- Ask for help with preparing food and doing other daily tasks. Family and friends are often happy to help a
mother with a newborn.
- Don't overdo it. And get as much rest
and sleep as you can. Fatigue can increase depression.
- Join a
support group of moms with new babies. An infant massage class is another great
way of getting out and spending time with others whose daily lives are like
yours. You will also learn new ways to bond with your baby. To find a support group
in your area, talk to your doctor. Or see the website of Postpartum Support
International at www.postpartum.net.
- Play upbeat music
throughout your day and soothing music at night.
Return to Depression: Managing Postpartum Depression
Other Works Consulted
Cunningham FG, et al. (2010). Psychiatric disorders section of neurological and psychiatric disorders. In Williams Obstetrics, 23rd ed., pp. 1175–1184. New York: McGraw-Hill.
O'Hara MW, Segre LS (2008). Psychologic disorders of pregnancy and the postpartum period. In RS Gibbs et al., eds., Danforth's Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th ed., pp. 504–514. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.