Emotional Health After Pregnancy

Feeling tired, crabby, and not being able to sleep are all part of being a new mom, but what if it’s more serious than that? We hear terms like “baby blues,” “postpartum depression,” and “postpartum psychosis.” What are the differences between these?


Baby Blues

Signs and symptoms of the baby blues — which last only a few days or weeks — may include:1

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety (racing heart, fear, nervousness)
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Crying
  • Decreased concentration
  • Trouble sleeping


Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Postpartum depression may appear to be the baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and longer lasting, eventually interfering with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Postpartum depression symptoms may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia (trouble falling asleep or waking in the middle of the night)
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Lack of joy in life
  • Feelings of shame, guilt, or inadequacy
  • Severe mood swing
  • Difficulty bonding with the baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby

Untreated, postpartum depression may last for a year or more.


Postpartum Psychosis

With postpartum psychosis — a rare condition that typically develops within the first two weeks after delivery — the signs and symptoms are even more severe. Signs and symptoms of postpartum psychosis may include:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Attempts to harm yourself or the baby

If you suspect that you’re developing postpartum psychosis, seek medical attention immediately. Don’t wait and hope for improvement. Postpartum psychosis may lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors.


What To Do

If you’re feeling depressed after your baby’s birth, you may be reluctant or embarrassed to admit it. But it’s important to call your doctor if the signs and symptoms of depression:

  • Don’t fade after two weeks
  • Are getting worse
  • Make it hard for you to care for your baby
  • Make it hard to complete everyday tasks
  • Produce scary thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. Examples of scary thoughts can be found here.

Getting early treatment for postpartum depression can speed your recovery:

  • Call your Provider
  • Call the Maternal and Child Health Hotline 800-722-2295
  • Perinatal/Postpartum Depression Phone Support (608)273-4724 (9am – 10 pm)
  • Madison Crisis Hotline: (608)280-2600 (Available 24/7)
  • Milwaukee Crisis Hotline: (414)257-7222 (Available 24/7)


Self Assessment

You can take a quiz called the “Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale.” It is not a diagnosis, but rather is a tool to assess yourself. It is 10 questions long. Click here to take it.2



Smoking and Depression

If you smoke, you should be on high alert. The 2004 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) showed that women who experienced postpartum depressive symptoms were almost twice as likely to resume smoking as women who did not experience any depressive symptoms.



More Information

1) Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Cox, J.L., Holden, J.M., and Sagovsky, R. 1987. Detection of postnatal depression: Development of the 10-item British Journal of Psychiatry 150:782-786.
2) Postpartum Depression. 2012. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/postpartum