Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Postpartum depression affects each person in a different way and to a different degree. Some women experience rare but extreme cases of the condition known as postpartum psychosis. On the other hand, some women experience a milder and more short-term type called “baby blues”.

Although this condition affects different people in different ways, there are clear symptoms that reveal when a woman is facing postpartum depression.

Common Symptoms of Postpartum “Baby Blues”

During the second and third weeks following pregnancy, it is common for women to experience postpartum “baby blues.”

Symptoms of “baby blues” include:

  • Anxiety
  • Crying
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Tiredness

These are common feelings and do not necessarily indicate a more severe type of postpartum depression. Though they can be challenging, these feelings typically go away within a few weeks and mostly likely do not require treatment.

In some cases, these milder “baby blues” symptoms do not fade and instead intensify or worsen within three to four weeks following pregnancy. This could be an indication of the more severe postpartum depression.

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Postpartum depression symptoms are similar to any other type of depression. There are some additional symptoms that include specific feelings toward or about the baby that are characteristic of postpartum depression.

Emotional Symptoms:

During postpartum depression, women most commonly experience emotional symptoms that affect how she is feeling.

These emotional symptoms include:

  • Excessive and uncontrollable crying
  • Persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Feeling numb or empty
  • Extremes in mood swings
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Feeling anger and rage
  • Becoming easily frustrated
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Feeling guilt and shame

Mental Symptoms:

In addition to emotional symptoms, there are also shifts in her thoughts and mentality during postpartum depression.

Here are some of the mental symptoms of postpartum depression:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Trouble remembering details
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Doubting her ability to care for her baby
  • Thinking things are too overwhelming to handle
  • Thinking she has failed or is inadequate

Physical Symptoms:

Postpartum depression also manifests itself physically and creates symptoms that affect the body.

Physical symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Changes in appetite such as eating too much or too little
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Oversleeping
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pains

Behavioral Symptoms:

Women suffering from postpartum depression also exhibit behavioral changes. Often times, it may seem as though she is behaving as a different person.

Here are common behavioral symptoms of postpartum depression:

  • Acting distant with her partner
  • Withdrawing from friends and social activities
  • Inability to form a bond with the new baby
  • Unwilling to care for the baby out of fear of harming him or her
  • Not being able to enjoy time with friends and family
  • Not wanting to be alone with the baby
  • Exhibiting angry behavior toward others

Extreme Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

In some cases, postpartum depression symptoms intensify and worsen beyond what is listed above. There are other more severe types of postpartum depression that create an additional set of symptoms.

These other types of postpartum depression include postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), postpartum panic disorder, postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and postpartum psychosis.

Symptoms of Obsession, Panic and Trauma

Women with severe cases of postpartum depression may experience a combination of obsessive, anxious and traumatic behaviors.

These extreme symptoms may include:

  • Extreme and debilitating anxiety and agitation
  • Recurring panic attacks that include shortness of breath, chest tightening and heart palpitations
  • Fears of dying, losing control or going crazy
  • Displaying repetitive obsessions such as bathing the baby and changing his/her clothes
  • Intrusive thoughts of harming or killing the baby
  • Feeling horrified and embarrassed by these thoughts

The woman is aware of her thoughts and behaviors with all types of postpartum depression except postpartum psychosis. Therefore, her acting upon harming or killing the baby is very unlikely.

The presence of these specific symptoms can help doctors diagnose which type of postpartum depression the mother is experiencing. Awareness of the details and patterns of postpartum depression symptoms will help mothers seek appropriate treatment.

Symptoms of Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is the most extreme type of PPD. It is rare but very serious. Postpartum psychosis forms shortly after giving birth—within two weeks or in as little as 48 hours. Postpartum psychosis is different than others types of PPD because the woman isn’t aware that her actions and behaviors are psychotic.

Postpartum psychosis symptoms include:

  • Experiencing hallucinations of things or sounds that aren’t there
  • Becoming delusional with paranoid, suspicious or irrational beliefs
  • Exhibiting extremely agitated or even violent behavior
  • Becoming easily confused or disoriented
  • Obsessing over the baby
  • Being extremely fearful or anxious
  • Displaying bizarre behaviors that are uncharacteristic of the individual
  • Extreme and rapid mood swings
  • Refusing to eat or sleep
  • Taking self-harming actions
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Suicidal attempts
  • Thoughts of harming or killing her baby

Because postpartum psychosis presents a serious risk of suicide or infanticide, hospitalization usually is required to keep both the mother and baby safe.

If you or a loved one exhibits any of these symptoms, inform your physician immediately. You can also take a postpartum depression screening test to help identify specific postpartum depression symptoms you may be facing. 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 a 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 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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