Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious medical condition that can develop during the first year after childbirth, usually peaking 3 to 6 months after delivery. Postpartum depression affects both mother and baby, interfering with a mother's ability to function, mother-baby bonding, and child development and safety.

Soon after childbirth, most women experience mood swings and mild depression, known as the "baby blues." This condition usually peaks around the fifth day after delivery and lasts only 4 to 10 days. Some women's bodies, however, respond to changing postpartum hormone levels with a lasting postpartum depression that requires treatment. Postpartum depression is most common in women with a history of depression, and it also may affect women after miscarriage or abortion.

Symptoms of postpartum blues and postpartum depression include sleeplessness, sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, irritability, and poor concentration.

Treatment for postpartum depression is counseling, antidepressant medication, or both.

Concerns about postpartum depression should be discussed with a health professional. Women who have troubling thoughts about harming themselves or others should seek emergency medical care.

Last Updated: June 24, 2008

Author: Jeannette Curtis

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry

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