For many people the birth of a child is a life-changing event. Welcoming a daughter or son to the world can be a joyous and wondrous occasion that intensifies the emotional bonds between partners and family members. In some cases, however, giving birth may lead to a series of negative emotions or a condition known as postpartum depression. In the United States as many as 13% of mothers experience symptoms consistent with postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is different than having what some people call the baby blues; it is a recognized mental health condition with a distinct set of symptoms. While the baby blues may involve mood swings, periods of irritability, crying spells and decreased concentration, postpartum depression symptoms last longer and are generally more severe. For example, with postpartum depression one may experience strong fatigue, difficulty bonding with their baby, withdrawal from friends and family, intense mood swings, and sometimes have thoughts of wanting to harm themselves or their baby.
Some people struggling with postpartum depression may not seek treatment because they feel a sense of shame or guilt about their condition. It is important for these individuals to understand that these feelings do not mean you are a bad parent; after childbirth many women experience the same emotions you are feeling.
For more information about postpartum depression please consider these resources:
- FindaPsychologist.org: Postpartum Depression Self-Help Resources
- National Institute of Mental Health: Understanding postpartum depression
- New York Times: Postpartum depression strikes fathers too
- WomensHealth.gov: Depression during and after pregnancy fact sheet
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: Peer Support