Yes. After having a baby, many women have mood swings. One minute they feel happy, the next minute they start to cry. They may feel a little depressed, have a hard time concentrating, lose their appetite or find that they can't sleep well even when the baby is asleep. These symptoms usually start about 3 to 4 days after delivery and may last several days.
If you're a new mother and have any of these symptoms, you have what are called the baby blues. The baby blues are considered a normal part of early motherhood and usually go away within 10 days after delivery.
Some womens have more severe symptoms of the baby blues or symptoms that last longer than a few days. This is called postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is an illness, like diabetes or heart disease.
The symptoms of postpartum depression affect your quality of life and include:
Although many women get depressed right after childbirth, some women don't begin to feel depressed until several weeks or months later. Depression that occurs within 6 months of childbirth may be postpartum depression.
In rare cases, a woman may develop postpartum psychosis. This is a very serious disease and includes all the symptoms of postpartum depression and thoughts of hurting yourself or hurting the baby. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, get help immediately.
It varies for each woman. Some women feel better within a few weeks, but others feel depressed or "not themselves" for many months. Women who have more severe symptoms of depression or who have had depression in the past may take longer to get well. Just remember that help is available and that you can get better.
The exact cause isn't known. Hormone levels change during pregnancy and right after childbirth. Those hormone changes may produce chemical changes in the brain that play a part in causing depression.
Feeling depressed doesn't mean that you are a bad person, that you did something wrong or that you brought this on yourself.
Postpartum depression is more likely if you have had any of the following:
Postpartum depression is treated much like any other depression. Support, counseling ("talk therapy") and medicines can all help. Talk with your doctor about what treatment is best for you.
If you take an antidepressant medicine, it will go into your breast milk. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking an antidepressant while breastfeeding. Your doctor can decide which medicine you can use while nursing your baby.
If you have given birth recently and are feeling sad, blue, anxious, irritable, tired or have any of the other symptoms of postpartum depression, remember that many other women have had the same experience. You're not "losing your mind" or "going crazy" and you shouldn't feel that you just have to suffer through. Here are some things you can do that other mothers with postpartum depression have found helpful:
Postpartum Major Depression: Detection and Treatment by C. Neill Epperson, M.D. (American Family Physician April 15, 1999, http://www.aafp.org/afp/990415ap/2247.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff