Peripartum Depression

Population Health & Well-Being

Peripartum Depression

For many women, having a baby is an exciting and joyous occasion. However, for some, depressive and anxious feelings can become very distressing and challenging to endure. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the term peripartum depression, formally known as post-partum depression, recognizes that depression associated with having a baby often begins during pregnancy or after childbirth.

Up to 70% of new mothers may experience the “baby blues,” a short-lasting condition that does not interfere with daily activities or require medical attention. Symptoms of this emotional condition may include crying for no reason, irritability, restlessness and anxiety. These symptoms last a week or two and generally resolve without treatment.1

Peripartum depression differs from the “baby blues” in that it is emotionally and physically debilitating and may continue for months or more. Untreated peripartum depression is not only a concern for the mother’s health and quality of life but can affect the well-being of the newborn infant. Peripartum depression can cause bonding issues with the baby and contribute to sleeping and feeding problems. These symptoms may cause new mothers to feel isolated, guilty or ashamed.

An estimated one in seven women experiences peripartum depression.2 To be diagnosed with peripartum depression, symptoms must begin during pregnancy or within four weeks following delivery. It should not be ignored that gestational carriers and surrogates are also at risk of developing peripartum depression.

Symptoms of Peripartum Depression

Symptoms of Peripartum Depression include:3

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Changes in appetite and sleep
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in irritability and agitation
  • Feeling worthless or guilt and feelings of being a bad mother
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Crying for “no reason”
  • Lack of interest in the baby, not feeling bonded to the baby or feeling very anxious about/around the baby
  • Fear of harming the baby or oneself

A woman experiencing peripartum depression usually has several of these symptoms and severity of symptoms may change. Many women with peripartum depression also experience symptoms of anxiety. One study found that nearly two-thirds of women with peripartum depression also had an anxiety disorder.4

Dr. Joel Axler
National Behavioral Health Leader