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Post-Partum (After The Birth) Issues

Jessica Evert, MD, edited by Benjamin McDonald, MD

newborn sonimage by Leonardo Boiko (lic)The weeks and months that follow after the initial excitement of the new baby's birth can be an emotion roller coaster for new mothers. Many women experience the "baby blues", a mild form of depression that lasts one week to ten days after the baby is born, and fully 10% of new mothers report feeling at least some depression during the post-partum period. There are a number of causes for these post-birth blues. The high levels of hormones that were characteristic of pregnancy are now crashing back to normal levels, dragging your emotions around with them. Further, the reality of having to be completely responsible for your new baby's every need is a massive restriction of the relative freedom you may have enjoyed before your baby was born.

Most of the time, the "baby blues" go away on their own in short order. However, for some women (especially young moms) these blues can become more severe and long-term. Postpartum depression can occur anytime within six months of giving birth, and if left untreated, can last longer than one year. The symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Feeling irritable, sad, hopeless, or overwhelmed
  • Feeling unwilling or unable to care for the new baby
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Crying often
  • Low sexual desire
  • Low energy levels
  • Too much or too little sleeping or eating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Desire to hurt oneself or the baby

Women with a history of depression or mood disorder, or who have family members who have experienced depression are at an increased risk for developing postpartum depression, as are women taxed by a stressful home environment or relationship, women who have a baby with a health problems or who is fussy, women experiencing a late-term miscarriage or stillbirth (and thus not bringing home a baby), and women whose pregnancy was unplanned.

Postpartum depression usually resolves within 9 months following the birth of a baby. However, the feelings associated with postpartum depression can be so severe as to interfere with your daily routines and make it difficult for you to care for yourself and your baby. Luckily, psychotherapy (counseling), support groups, and antidepressant medications can be used to treat postpartum depression. Speak to your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms of postpartum depression for more than two weeks in a row. He or she can work with you to find a combination of treatments that will best help you recover your balance. Remember: experiencing depression after giving birth is completely normal. There is no shame in asking for help.


Reader Comments

the govnerment - wendy - Dec 26th 2006
these days if you try to discipline your children the state gets involved and wants to try to take your kids away i had went to the doctor becuse all three of us were sick i explained my feelings to her and she told me well do you think we need to call CYFD to give you a break! instead of having a little compassion she wanted to turn me in she offered no sort of information to help the crisis i was going through i asked her if she had any kids and she said 5 i said and you didnt experience any sort of depression? she said well i probably did i just didnt know it. very cold about the situation FYI---i hardly know any thing about computors and spelling is not so great but gee i wonder if some one else had gone in there with a more serious problem would she have treated them the same a doctor with lack of compassion and seemingly uniformed about a very serious situation thats very discouriging.please email me back with some remidies