The time after giving birth can be emotional for new mothers.
Along with the happiness of having a new baby, many mothers experience the “baby blues” — feelings of sadness or worry — after giving birth. They may feel tired, overwhelmed, and have trouble sleeping or eating.
The baby blues are common. If they fade after a few days or a week, treatment usually is not necessary.
In some cases, however, feelings of sadness or emptiness after birth can continue for two weeks or longer. This is known as postpartum depression, and mothers experiencing it should get treatment to avoid complications.
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What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is a form of depression that affects mothers for up to a year after the birth of a child. About one in eight mothers will experience postpartum depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Hormonal changes after giving birth, fatigue from lack of sleep, and other stressors may cause or contribute to postpartum depression.
The symptoms of postpartum depression are more severe than the baby blues and last two weeks or longer.
Mothers with postpartum depression may feel sad, empty, or emotionless. They may feel disconnected from their newborn and find it difficult to provide care. In serious cases, they may think about hurting themselves or the baby.
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Postpartum Depression Symptoms
Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Frequent crying and sadness
- An empty feeling
- Not feeling connected to your baby
- Feeling guilty about your abilities as a mother
- Withdrawal from loved ones
- Trouble sleeping or eating
- Lack of interest in activities
- Thoughts of hurting the baby or yourself
In rare cases, some mothers experience hallucinations or hear voices. This is known as postpartum psychosis.
If you experience the symptoms of postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Call your ob-gyn for help.
Treatment Options for Postpartum Depression
Treatment for postpartum depression can include therapy, medicine, or a combination of both.
Also known as talk therapy or counseling, therapy usually involves meeting with a licensed medical professional to discuss what you’re feeling.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This treatment centers around changing thoughts and behaviors to help manage a condition. CBT is commonly used for anxiety and depression.
- Interpersonal therapy: Also common for depression treatment, interpersonal therapy focuses on social and personal relationships. It aims to help people improve communication in their relationships and develop support systems, among other goals.
- Other therapy options: Support groups, parental classes, and other therapy options may help mothers with postpartum depression.
Daily Antidepressant Medicines
Doctors may prescribe antidepressants to help treat postpartum depression. You should talk to your doctor about which antidepressant would work best for you. Some may carry side effects so be sure to tell the doctor you’re breastfeeding.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved brexanolone as the first drug designed specifically for postpartum depression. Unlike existing antidepressants, Brexanolone targets different areas of the brain and mimics hormones that are naturally produced in the body.
UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital now is offering brexanolone as part of a comprehensive treatment program for depression that occurs during pregnancy or postpartum. The program also includes therapy and other medicine options.
Brexanolone treatment at UPMC Magee-Womens requires a two-night stay in the hospital for intravenous infusion of the medicine. Women interested in the treatment should talk to their doctor about a referral to the UPMC Western Behavioral Health perinatal psychiatry team to determine eligibility. They also can email brexanolone@UPMC.edu.
When Should I Talk to My Doctor About Postpartum Depression?
You should contact your ob-gyn if:
- You experience symptoms of postpartum depression for two weeks or longer
- Your symptoms get worse
- You have severe symptoms, such as thoughts of suicide or harming your child
- Your depression is making it difficult to complete daily activities
The sooner you contact your doctor, the sooner you can begin treatment to help with your symptoms.
UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital offers various treatment options and classes for you and your family. Our behavioral health experts are experienced and ready to provide care. Call 412-641-1238 to speak with one of our staff members.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Reproductive Health, Depression Among Women. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/depression/
National Institute of Mental Health, Perinatal Depression. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/perinatal-depression/index.shtml
StatPearls, Brexanolone. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541054/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health, Postpartum Depression. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/perinatal-depression/index.shtml
For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long renowned for its services to women and babies, but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and the hospital’s NICU is one of the largest in the country. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.
UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. UPMC Western Psychiatric is the hub of UPMC Western Behavioral Health, a network of nearly 60 community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors throughout western Pennsylvania.