Although the birth of a new baby often brings feelings of joy, new mothers also feel
anxious, worried, and sad during the first months after having the baby. It is normal to
feel overwhelmed about the changes and stresses that come along with being a new
parent. Knowing the reasons for these feelings and learning ways to cope improves the
health of the mother as well as how she relates to her child. Feelings after giving birth run
from the blues to severe depression. The milder forms are the most common.
Depressive Symptoms in the Postpartum Period
50%-80% of women can experience feelings of both joy and sadness after giving birth.
Often women feel weepy, joyful, scared, excited, anxious, irritable and/or lonely in the
first few weeks after their baby is born. Women can have changes in eating as well as
trouble sleeping. Although the “blues” generally resolve by day 10, if these symptoms
continue, consider contacting a mental health provider, doctor or nurse/midwife for a
mental health assessment.
This occurs in about 8-15% of women after birth, and a higher percentage is seen in
women living in poverty. Symptoms most often occur in the first three months after
birth, but can occur anytime in the first year after delivery and include:.
ξ Feeling sad, teary or down most of the day
ξ Loss of pleasure in previously enjoyable activities
ξ Trouble sleeping, even when the baby is asleep
ξ Difficulty eating, needing to be reminded to eat, or marked overeating
ξ Restlessness or feeling slowed down
ξ Lack of energy
ξ Low self-worth or feelings of guilt
ξ Difficulty concentrating or making small decisions
ξ Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Anxiety symptoms may also co-occur with postpartum depression. These may
include: excessive anxiety or worry, often focused on the baby, irritability, panic
attacks or fears that prevent you from doing typical daily activities such as taking the
baby in the car.
If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor or nurse-midwife.
This is a rare form and occurs in about 1 in 1000 women within the first few weeks after
giving birth. Symptoms include severe agitation, significant lack of sleep for more than
one night, hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that others do not) and bizarre actions.
This is a medical emergency. Women with these symptoms should be seen right away at
the Emergency Room or by a psychiatrist.
Although any new mother can have depression after giving birth, there are certain risk
factors that increase your chance of postpartum depression:
ξ Depression, anxiety or other psychiatric illness in the past
ξ Family history of depression, anxiety or other mental health issues
ξ Difficult pregnancy or unplanned Cesarean-birth
ξ Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
ξ Marital/relationship problems
ξ Significant lack of sleep
ξ History of abuse or neglect
ξ Loss of a loved one in the past year
ξ Infant with health problems
ξ A fussy or colicky baby
ξ Multiple birth or more than 2 children under five years old
ξ Lack of social support
ξ Past miscarriages, abortion, or other losses
Coping Skills that are helpful for postpartum depression
Psychotherapy and anti-depressant medicines may be useful for many women
experiencing postpartum depression. There are also other strategies that many women
may find helpful:
ξ Join a support group for new parents or find other new mothers to spend time
ξ Go outdoors (with and without the baby) when the weather permits.
ξ Make an effort to talk with other adults each day.
ξ Find a type of exercise or daily movement that you enjoy.
ξ Take time out just for you every day.
ξ Enlist the help of your partner. Take turns getting up at night to take care of the
ξ Talk over your concerns with your partner, and ask for respite and support.
ξ Discuss dietary changes and healthy nutritional choices with your doctor or nurse-
If these don’t help your mood, it may be a sign that you need additional professional help.
There are many people who can help: your nurse-midwife, doctor, therapists,
psychiatrists, and clergy. Asking for help is the best thing you can do to help you and
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call
if you have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with
your doctor. This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical
condition. Because each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on
your health care team when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©
6/2015 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the
Department of Nursing and Department of Psychiatry. HF#5112