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What is Postpartum Depression?

Jennifer Wheat, LMFT

Postpartum Depression: The term is somewhat misleading, since more women experience anxiety than depression, and most experience both. So, if your doctor is telling you to watch for depressive symptoms, like excessive crying and sleeping, then you may not recognize your anxiety as something to report. Postpartum Depression is a term often used to cover all perinatal mood disorders, but there is more than one disorder. Perinatal Mood Disorders include Depression, Anxiety, OCD, PTSD and Bipolar and they can occur during pregnancy or onset can begin anytime during the first year postpartum. Nearly 20% of women suffer from a perinatal mood disorder, making it the #1 complication of childbirth. Many women experience something called Baby Blues, but the blues normally starts within a few days of giving birth and resolves itself in a couple of weeks. If you are feeling bad after three weeks postpartum, then you are not experiencing the blues, and need to get help so that you can feel better. Also, in the news, women who have suffered from Postpartum PSYCHOSIS are often said to have had Postpartum Depression.

This is incorrect.

Postpartum Psychosis is extremely rare. It occurs in approximately 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 deliveries, or approximately .1-.2% of births. The onset is usually sudden, most often within the first 2 weeks postpartum and is a completely different illness than the other disorders. With Postpartum Psychosis, women report hearing and seeing things that are not real. They become delusional and that is when the baby is in great danger. Women suffering from the other mood disorders typically are the exact opposite. While they may be having “scary thoughts”, perhaps worrying a lot about the baby’s safety, they are horrified at the thought of doing anything to hurt the baby. But, because of the incorrect information regarding tragedies like those reported in the news, women often hide how they are feeling, for fear others will think they will hurt their baby.

If you aren’t sure whether or not your symptoms indicate a problem, I encourage you to take a few minutes to complete the questionnaire by clicking on the following link. It’s quick and easy and will give you a good indication as to whether or not treatment will be helpful. Be encouraged – we know what this is and how to treat it so that you will find relief soon. You are not alone, you are not to blame, and with help, you will be well. (Postpartum Support International). For more information about Perinatal Mood Disorders, visit

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