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Postpartum Depression (cont.)

What Are the Symptoms and Signs of Postpartum Depression?

Signs and symptoms usually appear any time from 24 hours to a few months after delivery.

  • If you have these, it is important to see a health care professional, who will look for other conditions that can cause similar symptoms.
    • Sad mood, frequent crying
    • Lack of pleasure or interest in activities that once gave pleasure
    • Sleep disturbance
    • Weight loss
    • Loss of energy
    • Agitation or anxiety
    • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
    • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
    • Thoughts of death, suicide or homicide of the baby
    • Decreased interest in sex
    • Feelings of rejection
  • Physical symptoms such as frequent headaches, chest pain, rapid heart beat, numbness, shakiness or dizziness, and mild shortness of breath suggest anxiety. Postpartum anxiety disorder is a separate disorder from postpartum depression, but the two often occur together.
  • See the introduction to this article for symptoms specific to the types of postpartum depression.

When Should I Call the Doctor for Postpartum Depression

Call your health care professional in any of the following situations:

  • When you have mood swings or feel depressed for more than a few days after the birth of your baby
  • When you feel you are unable to cope with the daily activities in your life, including caring for your newborn or your other children
  • When you have strong feelings of depression or anger one to two months after childbirth

Call a neighbor, friend, or loved one who is nearby and 911 right away if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Inability to sleep more than two hours per night
  • Thoughts of hurting or killing yourself
  • Thoughts of hurting your baby or other children
  • Hearing voices or seeing things
  • Thoughts that your baby is evil

How Is Postpartum Depression Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of postpartum depression can be missed because the less severe symptoms are so common after childbirth. The symptoms are the same as those of many other mental illnesses, especially depression. Here is what to expect during an evaluation.

  • Your health care professional will ask you about your symptoms: what they are, how bad they are, and how long they have lasted.
  • He or she will also ask whether you have ever had similar symptoms before.
  • You will also be asked about risk factors for depression, such as family or marital problems, other stresses, mental illness in family members, and drug and alcohol use.
  • Your health care professional may also ask questions about your medical history to determine if there is a physical cause for your symptoms.
  • Your health care professional may use the questions of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, a screening tool. You answer 10 questions, and your answers indicate your probability of having postpartum depression. Depending on your score, you may be referred for further evaluation.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/8/2016

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Postpartum Depression »

During the postpartum period, up to 85% of women experience some type of mood disturbance.

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