Signs of postpartum depression can start to develop shortly after the birth of a child. Just as postpartum depression can be mild to severe, signs may be easy to spot or more subtle.

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious mental health condition where depressive symptoms develop following the birth of a baby. You may feel empty, sad, or hopeless.

Many people mistake postpartum depression for the baby blues. The baby blues often involve feelings of sadness or emptiness following the birth of your baby, but they go away within a few days. Postpartum depression lasts for a longer time.

But treatments can help you feel better and improve your quality of life with your newborn baby.

The baby blues are a common occurrence involving feelings of emptiness or sadness shortly after giving birth. If you experience them, you’re not alone as most people will go through these feelings.

The main difference between baby blues and postpartum depression is the length of time you may experience the symptoms. The baby blues typically clear within 3 to 5 days of giving birth.

Postpartum depression is one type of depression that can last 2 or more weeks and show no sign of improvement. Postpartum depression can last for a long time, so it may be helpful to seek help as soon as possible if you feel you may have it.

The birth of the baby can mean major changes to routines, time you get to yourself, and how much time you get to spend on leisure activities.

Not having time to enjoy activities you enjoy is one thing, but if you lose all interest in doing activities you enjoyed before giving birth, it may be a sign of postpartum depression.

It may also lead to issues with bonding with your baby. You may feel disconnected from your child, or you may feel like you can’t attend to their needs. It may also feel like general resentment toward your baby.

Another possible sign of postpartum depression involves persistent feelings of sadness, guilt, or emptiness. These may present differently depending on the person, but it can show up as:

  • frequent crying episodes
  • negative self-talk or drop in self-esteem
  • feelings of regretting the baby, not liking the baby, or not liking being a parent
  • irritability

You may also find that you ruminate on these thoughts for much of the day or on and off throughout the day.

Sleepless nights in the first few weeks or months of bringing a baby home are common. Babies require regular feeding around the clock, so new parents can expect to lose some sleep.

According to 2018 research, poor sleep patterns are associated with an increased risk of depressive symptoms postpartum.

If you find it difficult to fall asleep when your baby is asleep or experience other changes in sleep that aren’t associated with the baby’s needs, it may be a sign of postpartum depression.

You may also feel a dip in your energy levels or like you never get enough sleep or rest.

If you’re experiencing sleep problems that affect your day-to-day functioning, consider speaking with your doctor or a mental health professional to discuss proactive strategies that can help you improve sleep-related issues.

Worry happens to everyone, including new parents. You may worry your baby isn’t eating enough, sleeping too much or too little, or about any number of different things that can come up.

You may also worry about not being a good enough parent for your baby, even if you feel you’re doing everything you can for your baby.

Though worry is natural, when it starts to dominate your thoughts or affects your daily life, it can be a sign of postpartum depression.

One sign of postpartum depression is changes in your ability to think. You may find it difficult to concentrate, focus on tasks at hand, or remember things.

You may also find it difficult to make decisions.

Examples may include:

  • forgetting about appointments
  • being unable to complete basic tasks
  • having trouble deciding if you should do basic tasks, such as showering, changing the baby’s diaper, or having a meal

Some people develop thoughts that can be disturbing to them. This can include thoughts about:

  • suicide
  • hurting themselves
  • hurting their baby

Many people who experience postpartum depression don’t report it to a doctor or others due to feelings of embarrassment, shame, or guilt. This can lead to socially withdrawing from friends or family members.

You may feel like they’ll judge you either for how you feel or how you handle your baby.

Withdrawing from friends and family can also make you feel isolated and alone, which can further compound feelings of depression.

When to seek support

You should seek immediate help if you have thoughts of suicide. Options include:

  • calling the 988 – the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week (24/7)
  • calling 1-800-273-TALK(8255) – the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline available 24/7
  • texting HOME to 741741 – the Crisis Text Line is available 24/7
  • call or text 1-833-852-6262 – the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline is available 24/7

Even if you’re not feeling like you want to hurt yourself or your baby, you should strongly consider speaking with a medical professional, friend, or family member even if things just don’t feel right.

They may be able to help you talk it out or connect you with mental healthcare.

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If you feel like you have postpartum depression, the first thing to consider is that it’s not your fault. It does not mean you are a bad parent to your baby. But you may need help.

Often, your baby’s pediatrician will help screen for signs of postpartum depression. Follow-up appointments with a gynecologist may also screen for signs of depression.

They may be able to prescribe medications to help with depression or recommend mental health therapists that may be helpful for you.