Pregnancy and you blog

Postpartum depression: More than the baby blues

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. January 26, 2011

The time after a baby is born — the postpartum period — is a unique period in a woman's life. After waiting months for your baby's birth, maybe with some anxiety, you marvel at the miracle of the newborn in your arms. You begin to weave the new member of the family into the fabric of your days and nights.

Need more help?
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Go to the nearest hospital or emergency room
  • Call your physician, health provider or clergy
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

At the same time, you might find yourself sitting on the couch in the middle of the afternoon, still in your pajamas and needing a shampoo. You see dishes in the sink, dirty laundry overflowing the hampers and dust bunnies lurking under the furniture. The tears might start to flow as you wonder when you'll get more than an hour and a half of sleep at a time. Perhaps you're angry or resentful of your partner, who's out in the world with other adults — not up all night with the baby, and not doing laundry or evicting at least some of the dust bunnies. A fear of being discovered to be a bad mother may be lurking in the back of your mind. Is this baby blues or postpartum depression?

One of the clues is the length of time you've been feeling this way. The anxiety, mood swings and irritability of baby blues tend to last a few days or weeks. Postpartum depression is more severe and long-lasting. Symptoms tend to get worse, rather than better.

Don't feel ashamed or guilty if you experience postpartum depression. Many factors contribute to postpartum depression — such as changes in your brain chemistry, hormone levels and lifestyle — and none of them are your fault.

If you're concerned about postpartum depression, make an appointment with your health care provider right away. Work together to develop a treatment plan that works for you as an individual — whether it's counseling, medication or both. Left untreated, postpartum depression may last for a year or even longer.

Have you experienced postpartum depression? Share your story.

Jan. 26, 2011