Following delivery, about eight in 10 new mothers experience what is commonly known as the "baby blues," a couple of weeks of weepiness, confusion and hypersensitivity that usually goes away on its own. But another 10 to 15 percent experience some form of postpartum mood disorder within a year of giving birth. The catalyst is usually the ebb and flow of mind- and body-bending pregnancy-related hormones, or a personal or family history of depression.
The difference between baby blues and postpartum depression (PPD) lies in the frequency, intensity and duration of the symptoms. Baby blues can start during the first week after delivery and usually clear up within a few weeks, though some women find that their sad mood comes and goes over the first six weeks. Symptoms include frequent crying, unhappiness, anxiety and mood swings.
If you suspect that you have postpartum blues, try making sleep a priority whenever possible. Join a parent support group and seek the help of friends, your spouse, relatives and neighbors.
PPD, on the other hand, can start in the first two weeks after delivery but doesn't go away after a few days. Symptoms, which can last up to one year after birth, include an ongoing lack of interest in the baby, inability to rest, no desire to eat, uncontrolled crying, anger, confusion, anxiety or panic.
If you think you are having a mood or anxiety problem, call your physician or a local hospital for a referral to a postpartum depression support group or counselor. If you hear voices telling you to harm your children, that you're not a good mother or that your child is never going to be well taken care of, call for immediate medical help. Postpartum depression is highly treatable and does not indicate that you are a bad mother.
Support Depression After Delivery - 800-944-4PPD, www.depressionafterdelivery.com - A nationwide referral group for postpartum support groups and volunteers.
Postpartum Support International - 805-967-7636, www.postpartum.net - A worldwide referral network.
Postpartum Survival Guide, by Ann Dunnewold and Diane G. Sanford, New Harbinger Publications, 1994.
Sleepless Days: One Woman's Journey Through Postpartum Depression, by Susan Kushner Resnick, Griffin Trade Paperback, 2001.
This Isn't What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression, by Karen Kleiman and Valerie Davis Raskin, Bantam Books, 1994.
Women's Moods: What Every Woman Must Know About Hormones, the Brain and Emotional Health, by Deborah Sichel and Jeanne Watson Driscoll, Quill, 2000.