If you or a loved one has postpartum depression, you're not alone. The condition, which causes new mothers to feel extremely hopeless and sad, affects one in nine new mothers.
The National Institutes of Health helped develop a new treatment that has been approved for the condition, to go along with existing treatments like talk therapy and antidepressants.
Is it postpartum depression or something else?
The stress of recovering from childbirth, taking care of a new baby, and hormone changes can cause you to feel sad and worried. That’s normal and is known as the "baby blues."
But if those feelings start to feel overwhelming and last more than two weeks, you might have postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is not your fault. It's due—in part—to changes in your hormones and brain that can leave you feeling extremely empty, anxious, and can even cause you to want to hurt yourself or your baby.
Without treatment, it can last for months or years. It's important to see your health care provider immediately if you suspect postpartum depression.
What are some signs?
Postpartum depression can start during pregnancy. But it usually begins one week to one month after delivery. In some women, it may begin up to six weeks or three months after delivery.
The main symptoms are ongoing sadness, inability to enjoy otherwise happy or rewarding experiences, distressing anxiety or irritability, and constantly thinking about your baby's well-being. You may also try to isolate yourself.
Other symptoms include changes in eating habits, headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain.
What are some risk factors?
You may be at a greater risk for postpartum depression if you've had prior postpartum depression, depression, or bipolar disorder. Having a stressful life event, like the death of a loved one, can also make you more likely to have the condition.
How is it diagnosed?
If you are worried you might have postpartum depression, make sure to see a health care provider. They can help you determine if it's postpartum depression or something else.
They may ask you questions about your sadness, worry, and anxiety. They will also do blood tests to find out if another disorder, such as a thyroid disease, may be causing your depression.
How is it treated?
Talk therapy and medication can help you feel more like yourself.
During talk therapy, you will speak one-on-one with a mental health professional about how you're feeling, sleeping, and eating. You will also talk about your relationship and feelings toward your baby.
Antidepressants may also help you feel better. You should speak with your health care provider about the risks and benefits to you and your baby before taking them.
What new treatment options are there?
NIH is committed to improving treatment for postpartum depression.
The National Institute of Mental Health supported early research on a drug that was recently approved for mothers with the condition. The medication, called brexanolone, is the first drug specifically approved for postpartum depression.
To take the medicine, women must be supervised by a medical professional who gives the medicine intravenously, or through your veins. Women must stay in the hospital for about three days.