Postpartum Mood Changes

What are the baby blues?

About 2–3 days after childbirth, some women begin to feel depressed, anxious, and upset. They may feel angry with the new baby, their partners, or their other children. They also may

  • cry for no clear reason
  • have trouble sleeping, eating, and making choices
  • question whether they can handle caring for a baby

These feelings, often called the baby blues, may come and go in the first few days after childbirth.

How long do the baby blues usually last?

The baby blues usually get better within a few days or 1–2 weeks without any treatment.

What is postpartum depression?

Women with postpartum depression have intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, or despair that prevent them from being able to do their daily tasks.

When does postpartum depression occur?

Postpartum depression can occur up to 1 year after having a baby, but it most commonly starts about 1–3 weeks after childbirth.

What causes postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression probably is caused by a combination of factors. These factors include the following:

  • Changes in hormone levels—Levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease sharply in the hours after childbirth. These changes may trigger depression in the same way that smaller changes in hormone levels trigger mood swings and tension before menstrual periods.
  • History of depression—Women who have had depression at any time—before, during, or after pregnancy—or who currently are being treated for depression have an increased risk of developing postpartum depression.
  • Emotional factors—Feelings of doubt about pregnancy are common. If the pregnancy is not planned or is not wanted, this can affect the way a woman feels about her pregnancy and her fetus. Even when a pregnancy is planned, it can take a long time to adjust to the idea of having a new baby. Parents of babies who are sick or who need to stay in the hospital may feel sad, angry, or guilty. These emotions can affect a woman’s self-esteem and how she deals with stress.
  • Fatigue—Many women feel very tired after giving birth. It can take weeks for a woman to regain her normal strength and energy. For women who have had their babies by cesarean birth, it may take even longer.
  • Lifestyle factors—Lack of support from others and stressful life events, such as a recent death of a loved one, a family illness, or moving to a new city, can greatly increase the risk of postpartum depression.

Copyright November 2019 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

If you think that you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, please call our office at (415) 666-1250. Additionally, if you are currently having any thoughts of hurting yourself or others please immediately call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency department.