depression encompasses a spectrum of mental disorders appearing
in mothers shortly following delivery. The birth of a baby, while
often a welcome event, also brings about hormonal changes in the
mother, and has an undeniable impact on her personal/social life.
mothers - estimates range between 50-80% in Western countries
- experience a mild depression, colloquially called the 'baby
blues', within a few hours or days of giving birth. This is very
common and is linked in part to rapid hormonal changes following
birth. It usually goes away on its own in just a few weeks. Symptoms
include crying jags, feelings of sadness or vulnerability, anxiety,
irritability, and insomnia.
depression is distinct from the 'baby blues'. It is a more serious
form of depression that affects between 10%-20% of women, and
may appear anytime within the first six months following delivery.
Postpartum depression is more severe and longer-lasting than the
'baby blues' if left untreated.
of postpartum depression can include:
feelings of inadequacy or guilt
loss of appetite
insomnia (not due to baby's night wakings)
anxiety or panic attacks
lack of interest in the baby
Very rarely, (in about 1 or 2 out of a 1000 women) postpartum
psychosis may occur. It usually appears suddenly with the first
2-3 weeks following birth.
psychosis is marked by symptoms such as:
delusions (often about the baby, and often of a religious nature)
mania or inability to stop activity
extreme anxiety and agitation
suicidal or homicidal thoughts
psychosis is a severe, but treatable, emergency and requires immediate
of postpartum depression
The causes of postpartum depression are still unknown. Any type
of stress or negative life event in the mother's life, such as
marital or financial problems, may signal a risk factor for postpartum
depression. Other risk factors include:
or anxiety during pregnancy
prior history of depression or postpartum depression
family history of depression or postpartum depression
lack of support from spouse or partner, parents, in-laws, or friends
complications during pregnancy or birth
history of severe PMS
disorders can interfere the joy of new motherhood, and may even
impair a mother's ability to bond with her baby. The good news
is that even the most severe forms of postpartum depression and
psychosis respond well to medical treatment, the earlier the better.
Depending on the individual, a mother experiencing a postpartum
disorder may benefit from counseling, participation in support
groups, exercise, changes to her diet, medication, or any combination
1998, New York State passed a law requiring hospitals to inform
postpartum women about the possibility of a postpartum disorder.
If you feel that you, or a recently postpartum woman close you
may be suffering from a postpartum disorder, contact your doctor
or hospital's obstetric department and ask for a referral to a
practitioner with experience in treating postpartum depression.
(You should also get a medical evaluation to rule out any possible
physical causes.) They may also be able to tell you about support
groups specifically for women experiencing a postpartum disorder.
following organizations can also help:
Resource Center of New York, Inc.
The Postpartum Resource Center has a network of support groups
around the state, and can do referrals to professionals. They
also provide emotional support for women over the phone with volunteers
who are mothers who have experienced postpartum depression themselves.
Their phone number is (631) 422-2255.
Support International (PSI)
Postpartum Support International's website offers access to PSI's
international Social Support Network, essays on postpartum disorders,
postpartum chat rooms, helpful books and more. Call PSI at (805)
967-7636 to find out about resources, organizations, and groups
in your area.
After Delivery, Inc.
Depression After Delivery focuses on education, information and
referral for women and families coping with mental health issues
associated with childbearing, both during pregnancy and postpartum.
They have an Information Request Line at 1-800-944-4PPD (1-800-944-4773).
Leave your name and address and they will mail out an information
You can also write to:
Depression After Delivery, Inc.
91 East Somerset Street
Raritan, NJ 08869
other Information Center Fact Sheets.
The Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc. is a
501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, with 33 local affiliate
MHAs serving 54 counties. MHANYS is working to ensure available
and accessible mental health services for all New Yorkers.