Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Having a baby is an exciting experience. But it can also be overwhelming, and it’s totally normal to have moments of worry or anxiety.
But if you start to experience extreme sadness, mood swings and intense loneliness, you may be dealing with postpartum depression (PPD). This form of depression affects approximately one in seven new parents.
On top of this, if you’ve had postpartum depression before, your risk for depression again increases to 30 percent with each additional pregnancy. Postpartum depression symptoms include alternating highs and lows, irritability, rapid mood swings, feelings of sadness, guilt anxiety and frequent crying. These symptoms may range from mild to severe and can appear either right after the time of childbirth or up to a year later. Some even may have suicidal thoughts.
Wondering what causes postpartum depression? During pregnancy, levels of estrogen and progesterone skyrocket. But within three days of having a baby, those levels fall back to what they were pre-pregnancy. That’s a lot of hormonal change in a short period. On top of this, having a baby changes your life drastically. You sleep less and are adjusting to a new experience. These factors combined can lead to mental health issues and PPD.
Along with PPD, there’s something known as the baby blues. This affects up to 75 percent of people after giving birth. It’s less severe than PPD and usually begins a week after having a baby. Generally, it subsides within two weeks and doesn’t usually require treatment.
During your postpartum visit with your healthcare provider, they will screen you for postpartum depression. But because postpartum depression can occur up to a year after giving birth, it’s important to monitor symptoms on your own, too.
If you feel you are developing PPD, you should know that there are many resources available. Here, we’ve outlined the help that is available to you if you are dealing with postpartum depression.
Again, your healthcare provider is a great resource if you feel you have the baby blues or PPD. But there are other resources available if you can’t or don’t want to talk to your healthcare provider for any reason.
A postpartum depression helpline can be a good resource to have on hand. And if your mind ever veers in the direction of self-harm or suicide, you should call someone immediately.
The following hotlines can provide immediate assistance to those dealing with postpartum depression.
Postpartum Support International (1-800-944-4773). Call this toll-free line for information, support and resources about PPD. It’s important to note that the helpline associated with Postpartum Support International does not handle emergencies. Instead, call and leave a confidential message, and a volunteer will then call you back. They can offer info, encouragement, support and resources for help. This resource is available in English and Spanish.
Postpartum Health Alliance (619-254-0023). To use this resource, you’ll head to the website to fill out a short questionnaire. From there, a trained volunteer will get back to you. They can listen to how you feel and give you personalized clinical references.
Emergency Medical Services (911). If you are having thoughts of harming yourself, it’s best to reach out to 911 for immediate assistance.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). This resource is available 24/7 and you should feel free to call anytime you are having severe mental health issues. In addition to PPD support, this lifeline provides help for people with depression or other mental health issues (like bipolar disorder or anxiety). It is free and confidential to people who are at risk for suicide. Along with the hotline, they have a chat function on their website. Services are available in English and Spanish and for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
You do not have to have been formally diagnosed with postpartum depression by a healthcare provider to use these resources. You should feel free to reach out to them at any time.
If you’d like to talk to a healthcare professional or mental health provider in person or see if you can be formally diagnosed with postpartum depression, there are a number of ways you can find someone to speak with.
One place you can start is with your OB/GYN. Even if it’s well after your final postpartum visit, you can reach out to your doctor and let them know what is going on. They may be able to refer you to mental health professionals that specialize in postpartum depression. Another option is to speak with your baby’s pediatrician, who can also point you towards treatment for postpartum depression.
There are also a number of resources that can help you find therapists who specialize in treating postpartum depression. Here are a few to consider:
The American Psychological Association (APA). Use the Psychologist Locator to search for licensed therapists in your area. You can also search for professionals that list postpartum depression as a specialty.
Psychology Today. Similar to the APA website, you can use the Find a Therapist tool to search for a trained professional in your area. Filter by gender or area of focus (like postpartum depression).
The National Register of Health Services Psychologists. Use the Find a Psychologist tool to sift through thousands of therapists. Narrow it down by location, insurances they take and areas of focus (like PPD).
Another option? Do a simple online search. You can type in “postpartum resources near me” or “community resources for postpartum depression” to see if there are any specific help options close to you. It’s possible you will find healthcare providers who specialize in this mental health condition right near you or support groups that can offer relief.
Over the past few years, online therapy has boomed. Not only is it convenient (especially if you have a new baby), it can be effective.
A 2015 review analyzed 30 studies of 2,181 patients total and found that web-based cognitive behavioral therapy treated anxiety as well as in-office therapy did. Of course this research wasn’t done specifically on postpartum depression, but it does show that online therapy can work.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.
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