A Postpartum Depression Discussion with Dr. Jessica Pullen

1 in 7 women in the United States suffer from postpartum depression. According to the CDC,

the incidence of postpartum depression is seven times higher today than it was in 2000. Postpartum depression is not a character flaw or a weakness. 

Below Dr. Jessica A. Pullen, M.D., FACOG, answers some common questions about postpartum depression. If you have postpartum depression, prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms and help you bond with your baby. 

Q: What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is depression that occurs in the first 12 months after giving birth. The symptoms include:

  • Excessive crying and sadness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Frustration and anger
  • Withdrawing from loved ones
  • Feeling distant from your baby
  • Feeling anxious
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby
  • Doubting your ability to care for your baby

The symptoms can be different from person to person. If you’re feeling any of these symptoms, it’s never too early to reach out and get help

Q: What are the baby blues?

The baby blues are defined a depressed mood, anxiety and frustrations that usually occur 2-3

days after birth. The symptoms are usually mild and self-limiting. These include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Excessive Crying
  • Doubting your ability to care for your baby

Q: How can I tell the difference?

The baby blues are usually mild and get better within a few days without treatment.

Q: What are the risk factors for postpartum depression?

The common risk factors for postpartum depression include:

  • History of depression
  • Pregnancy and birth complications
  • Preterm labor
  • Lack of social support
  • Twins and triplets
  • Stressful life events
  • Age less than 20
  • Family history of depression

Q: What causes postpartum depression?

The changes in hormone level during and after pregnancy can trigger postpartum depression. There are drastic hormonal shifts that occur in the first 24 hours after giving birth. There are several non-hormonal factors that can affect mood postpartum, such as, lack of sleep, change in social relationships, and lack of free time.

Q: I think I have postpartum depression, what do I do now?

You should reach out to your OBGYN as soon as possible. There are many treatment options for postpartum depression, including counseling and medications. Your OBGYN can help you decide the best approach to treating your symptoms. 

If you are actively having thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, please go to the nearest hospital or call 911.

Q: What can I do to feel better at home?

There’s a variety of activities you can do to help with your postpartum depression at home.

  • Rest as much as you can
  • Sleep when the baby is sleeping
  • Don’t try to do too much or to do everything by yourself
  • Ask your partner, family, and friends for help
  • Make time to go out, visit friends, or spend time alone with your partner
  • Talk about your feelings with your partner, supportive family members, and friends
  • Talk with other mothers so that you can learn from their experiences
  • Join a support group
  • Use these resources: