Postpartum Depression Signs

Common Signs of Postpartum Depression

Educating yourself about the different signs is vital if you suspect that you or someone you love suffers from postpartum depression (PPD). By understanding PPD, you can potentially identify patterns that can help physicians and mental health professionals diagnose the severity and type of PPD with which the new mother is suffering.

It’s important to remember that only physicians and mental health professionals can accurately diagnose postpartum depression and its many forms. That’s because many signs and symptoms of postpartum depression are broad and can mimic symptoms of other conditions.

While postnatal depression can affect new moms differently, there are some clear signs. If you suspect someone is suffering from postpartum depression, use the below guide to look for specific signs of postpartum depression.

Changes in Personality and Behaviors

The first thing to identify when looking for signs of postpartum depression is any noticeable and concerning change in personality, mood, and behavior. These may come and go, or they may be chronic and long-lasting.

If you notice several of the signs and patterns listed below in your loved one, this may indicate postpartum depression.

Emotional Signs of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression (perinatal depression) can severely affect a woman’s emotional wellbeing.

Look for the following emotional signs of postpartum depression in your loved one:

  • Excessive crying for long periods for seemingly no reason
  • Drastic mood swings that go from calm to irritable frequently
  • Easily angered or irritated
  • Exhibiting intense anxiety, worry, and fear that hold her back from performing daily tasks
  • Expressing feelings of shame, guilt, or hopelessness
  • Describing feelings of extreme sadness and despair

Mental Signs of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a depressive disorder that affects the mother’s emotions and mental state. Here are some common mental signs of postpartum depression:

  • Seeming unable to focus or concentrate
  • Forgetting things easily
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy
  • Being indecisive and unable to make decisions about things
  • Thinking she is to blame for however she is feeling and acting

Physical Signs of Postpartum Depression

Due to the emotional and mental stress of postpartum depression, women can also experience physical symptoms. Take notice if you hear of the mother complaining of any of the following physical symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Stomach pains
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Loss of energy
  • Change in appetite, whether it’s eating too much or too little
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Oversleeping

Behavioral Signs of Postpartum Depression

Perhaps some of the most telling signs of postpartum depression in a loved one are their sudden and dramatic changes in behavior. If you feel your loved one has become a different person, this could be a serious sign of postpartum depression.

Look for the following changes in behavior as signs of postpartum depression:

  • Withdrawing from her partner, friends, and family members
  • Not wanting to be alone with the baby
  • Not interested in caring for or bonding with the baby
  • Not wanting to participate in her usual activities, such as exercise and hobbies
  • Displaying outbursts of anger or rage directed at others
  • Avoiding tasks and responsibilities

Differentiating Between PPD and Baby Blues

The National Institute of Mental Health indicates that about 15% of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth to their new baby. If you notice signs of postpartum depression, be sure first to consider the level at which the woman may be experiencing these symptoms.

Postpartum baby blues has prevalent symptoms many mothers feel after giving birth and is often due to changing hormone levels (estrogen and progesterone). Symptoms like crying, tiredness, and restlessness are generally to be expected after experiencing childbirth.

When symptoms last longer than a couple of weeks and worsen or intensify to affect her quality of life, these may be signs of something more severe than the baby blues. Making this distinction between the two will help new parents seek appropriate medical intervention as soon as possible before the condition worsens.

Extreme Signs of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression has other more severe types involving extreme behaviors and emotions. The following are severe signs of postpartum depression that may indicate PPD types like postpartum panic disorder, postpartum OCD, postpartum PTSD, and postpartum psychosis.

  • Obsessive and repetitive behaviors, such as cleaning and changing the baby’s clothes
  • Suffering from panic attacks with physical symptoms like racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, and tightening chest
  • Intrusive thoughts of harming the baby and being horrified by these thoughts
  • Fearing that she is losing control over her thoughts or that she is going crazy

Your healthcare provider may request a blood test to rule out any other health conditions causing these symptoms, such as thyroid problems.

Signs of Postpartum Psychosis

  • Hallucinations, delusions, and confusion
  • Extreme paranoia and suspicions
  • Expressing thoughts of self-harm
  • Expressing thoughts of harm toward the baby
  • Any suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Any thoughts or actions about killing the baby

If you notice any of these extreme signs, inform a physician immediately, as only a doctor or mental health professional can diagnose.

Thoughts of suicide are highly problematic for any individual and shouldn’t be faced alone. In the meantime, consider contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, a hotline available 24/7 to assist during times of emotional crisis.

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

According to the Office on Women’s Health, no specific cause of PPD exists.

However, certain risk factors can increase a woman’s chance of developing postpartum depression.

Some common factors that present an increased risk of postpartum depression developing include:

  • Family history of depression or mental illness
  • Prior or current diagnosis of a depressive disorder (such as major depression)
  • Prior or current diagnosis of a mental illness or mood disorder (e.g., Bipolar Disorder, OCD, PTSD, etc.)
  • Traumatic or higher-risk pregnancies
  • Stressful or traumatic life events (e.g., death, loss of employment, etc.)
  • Giving birth to a child with special needs
  • Difficult or traumatic birthing experiences

What to Do If You See Signs of PPD

If you’ve noticed several of the above signs of postpartum depression within the first year after giving birth, here are some tips for what to do next.

Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” is a standard recommendation for women experiencing PPD. Therapy models like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help new mothers address their feelings in a safe, supportive environment.

Some mental health professionals may also prescribe antidepressant medication, and some antidepressants are also safe to take while actively breastfeeding.

With your help and support in watching for signs of postpartum depression, you can ensure your loved one gets the appropriate treatment she needs to recover from this terrible condition. Team
Reviewed by:Kimberly Langdon M.D.

Medical Editor

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kimberly Langdon is a Doctor of Medicine and graduated from The Ohio State University in 1991. She completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at The Ohio State University Hospitals, Department of OB/GYN. Board-Certified in 1997, she is now retired from clinical practice after a long and successful career. Currently, she is the Founder and Chief Medical Officer of a Medical Device Company that is introducing patented products to treat vaginal microbial infections without the need for drugs. She is an expert in Vaginal Infections, Menstrual disorders, Menopause, and Contraception.

Written by:

Jenna Carberg was diagnosed with postpartum depression following the birth of her daughter in 2016. It was a healthy birth but in the following days, Jenna's mood changed quickly. Doctors suggested that it might be the "baby blues", but her husband Chris suggested she seek a second opinion. Jenna was diagnosed with postpartum depression and began a journey that lasted 9 long months with significant ups and downs. Jenna's mental health care and her experiences became a passion for her to share with the world. She and her husband Chris founded as a support website designed to help women suffering in silence and their loved ones.

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