Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a general term used to describe a range of disorders a woman can experience before or after
birth. The spectrum of what is often referred to as PPD, or Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, includes the Baby Blues, Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety Disorder, Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Postpartum Psychosis. A woman’s symptoms could fall into one of these categories or she could exhibit signs associated with more than one disorder.

While many women experience some mild mood change or “the blues” during or after the birth of a child, these feelings are usually resolved within the first two weeks. Approximately 15-20% of women experience more significant symptoms.

Perinatal Mood Disorders Are Treatable

If you believe you are suffering from a Perinatal Mood Disorder (PMD), contact your physician for a complete medical evaluation including a thyroid screening. Many medical conditions (such as a thyroid imbalance) can mimic perinatal mood disorders and should be ruled out before beginning treatment. The ideal treatment plan includes:

  • a complete medical examination
  • psychiatric evaluation
  • psychotherapy
  • medication, if needed
  • participation in a support group

Don’t forget to also take time for yourself each day. Eat well, exercise, and get as much rest as possible. Take small steps at first—one day at a time. Most of all, please remember that you will be well!

Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression symptoms may include:

  • Frequent crying/feeling sad most of the time
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Lack of energy
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive worry
  • Trouble with eating
  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or shame
  • Feeling a sense of detachment from the baby

Postpartum Anxiety Disorder symptoms may include:

  • Racing obsessive negative thoughts
  • Hot flashes
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Fear of being alone with the baby
  • Feeling shaky or jittery
  • Bursts of anger
  • Gastrointestinal pain, diarrhea, nausea
  • Panic attacks
    — Pounding, racing heart
    — Thinking she is having a heart attack
    — Feeling like she is choking
    — Overwhelming sense of doom

Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder symptoms may include:

  • Repeating thoughts and images that are upsetting in nature
  • Preoccupation with cleanliness and germs
  • Doubts about her ability to care for the baby
  • Excessively elaborate routines to complete common, simple activities

Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms may include:

  • Re-experiencing a past traumatic event
  • Flashbacks or nightmares
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Irritability, anger, and/or sleep disturbances
  • Feeling a sense of detachment from the baby

Postpartum Psychosis

Although rare, affects .1% of postpartum women and is considered a postpartum emergency requiring immediate medical attention from her doctor or a visit to the hospital emergency room. Symptoms may include:

  • Delusional thoughts and/or hallucinations
  • Feelings/actions of harming herself or the baby
  • Rapid mood swings (irritability to euphoria to depression)
  • Loss of touch with reality for extended periods of time

Risk Factors

Remember, risk factors do not cause PPD. They merely set the stage or create an opportunity for it. Some may include:

  • Postpartum depression/anxiety with previous pregnancy
  • Previous history of depression or anxiety (personal or family history)
  • Abrupt weaning
  • Social isolation; few social supports
  • History of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
  • Thyroid dysfunction