What to know about postpartum depression

by Kaiser Permanente |
A middle aged mother resting on her couch holds up her baby on her chest with a tired and stressed expression.

After you give birth you may experience an array of emotions, from extreme joy to sorrow and everything in between. It’s normal to feel a little down after you give birth. For many, these “baby blues” go away after a week or two. But some people experience feeling sad, emotionless, or empty for longer. This is known as postpartum mood and anxiety disorder.

There isn’t a clear cause for this condition. Your hormones and the physical and emotional changes you went through while pregnant and giving birth may play some role.

Signs of postpartum depression

You could have a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder if you:

  • Feel sad, hopeless or overwhelmed
  • Feel restless or moody
  • Feel distant from your infant
  • Feel as though you may hurt your baby or yourself
  • Have signs of paranoia or wonder if somebody’s watching you
  • Worry intensely about your baby’s well-being

New mothers may feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty about these feelings. But keep in mind that many people experience these feelings after giving birth. You might simply need a little help to make you feel better. If you are experiencing these feelings, it is important to reach out to your care team so they can support you.

Treatments your clinician may suggest

Fortunately, there are many treatments that are available. Your clinician may suggest medications, counseling, or both. They may also recommend things you can try at home, such as:

  • Getting good rest and sleep
  • Asking for help from your support persons in daily chores, such as cooking meals and newborn care
  • Eating a healthy diet and exercising daily
  • Getting out in the sun as much as possible
  • Joining a support group for new parents
  • Playing stimulating music during the day and soothing music at night
  • Avoiding alcohol and other substances

Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help if you need it. Along with your clinician, your family and friends can support you as you work to feel better.

When should you seek help?

If you feel down for more than a few weeks or your moods are very low and affecting your ability to care for yourself and baby, contact your care team. The sooner you talk about your mood, the sooner you can get help to feel better. Keep in mind that if you ever feel like hurting yourself or your baby, your clinician should know immediately. There is help, there is hope, and you are not alone. People are available 24/7 to listen, help, and get you the support you need. You can:

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
  • Text the Crisis Text Line — text “WORDS” to 741741
  • Call 911 or go to the nearest hospital

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.