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Postpartum Depression: What You Should Know

Postpartum Depression: What You Should Know

You’ve just had a baby, and now you’re experiencing bouts of sadness.

Do you have the baby blues or something more serious, like postpartum depression?

What’s the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression?

Baby blues, as they are traditionally called, last one to two weeks after birth and are short-term changes in mood. Baby blues can be associated with changes in a woman’s body and the realization that life has changed dramatically post-birth.

Postpartum depression, on the other hand, occurs when a woman is overcome with intense feelings of sadness and the inability to function. This can last up to 12 months or longer. Recent research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that about 1 in 8 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression.

“If you’re feeling depressed and you can’t function or make it through your daily duties, then you likely have postpartum depression,” says Julian Martinez, MD, a board-certified physician in gynecology and obstetrics at Valley Health Shenandoah Memorial Hospital Multispecialty Clinic. “Other signs are suicidal ideation and the inability to take care of yourself or your child.”

What causes postpartum depression?

There are several factors that might contribute to postpartum depression, including:

  • a history of depression and PTSD
  • lack of sleep
  • anxiety
  • stress between partners
  • a shift in hormone levels
  • changes in self-image
  • family support (Women with less familial support experience postpartum depression more often than those with family support)

One main reason women experience postpartum depression, according to Dr. Martinez, is due to a lack of education regarding what happens after a baby is born and what a woman can likely expect, including a change in appearance; fatigue; sleepless nights; uterine contractions; bleeding; sex that can be painful; sore breasts, vagina and/or perineum; as well as pain and latching issues with breastfeeding.

“In the U.S., people have the expectation, especially male partners, that when the pregnancy is over, they go back to their life as it was before,” Martinez says. “People need to get as much good information as possible to bring awareness of postpartum depression and the silent damage it can cause. We as providers have a great responsibility to give this type of information. If people had more realistic expectations of the postpartum period, I think they would do much better in general.”

When to see a doctor

If you believe you have postpartum depression, it is important to talk to a doctor. Your primary care provider will work with you to develop a care plan that may include one or more treatment options, such as counseling. It may help to talk through your concerns with a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional.

Your provider may also discuss medication and self-care, including exercising, getting enough sleep, making time for yourself, and setting realistic expectations.

For more information on the services Valley Health provides, please visit Women & Children Healthcare VA & WV | OBGYNs (