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Understanding postpartum depression

Many women experience intense emotions after giving birth, including sadness that is often referred to as the "baby blues." The baby blues can include bouts of crying, trouble sleeping, anxiety and mood swings and usually lasts up to two weeks after the birth. But for some women, the symptoms evolve into something much more: postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is more severe and longer-lasting than the baby blues. It is not something women should be ashamed of, nor should it be ignored. It is like any other complication that can occur with childbirth and, like other forms of depression, treatment is available.

It's important for new moms to talk to their doctors right away about experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety so that treatment can begin. In many cases, women might not realize they are suffering from postpartum depression at first. Knowing the signs and symptoms can help new moms and their loved ones recognize it. This list of symptoms was put together by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear that you're not a good mother
  • Hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
  • Restlessness
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

An even more serious and severe form of postpartum depression is postpartum psychosis. This condition is much rarer and typically develops within the first week of giving birth. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms include confusion and disorientation, obsessive thoughts, hallucinations and delusions, paranoia, and attempts to harm self or baby.

Immediate treatment is required if postpartum psychosis is suspected. Read more about both postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis here. Remember, a new mom is not at fault for either condition, and countless women have been successfully treated for both.

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