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Mental Health Matters

Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

Pregnancy and a new baby can bring a range of emotions. Many women may feel overwhelmed, sad, or anxious at different times during their pregnancy and even after the baby is born. In many cases, these feelings go away on their own. But for some, the emotions are more serious and may stay for some time.

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Researchers believe that depression is one of the most common problems women experience during and after pregnancy.

Women may also experience anxiety around the time of pregnancy—beyond just being nervous about having a baby.
Anxiety, during and after pregnancy, is as common as depression and may even happen at the same time. So, you also may hear “perinatal depression and anxiety” or “perinatal mood and anxiety disorders” used to describe all of what women might feel.

No matter what you call them, depression and anxiety surrounding pregnancy or the first year after birth are real medical conditions, and they affect about one in eight new mothers.


Scientists don’t know exactly what causes postpartum depression. Many believe that the dramatic hormone changes during and after pregnancy are to blame. Additionally, certain characteristics may increase vulnerability to the condition such as women who’ve had postpartum depression with a previous child. Other vulnerabilities may be related to life events. It is important to remember: depression and anxiety that happen during pregnancy or after the birth of your baby are not things you cause—they are medical conditions that require medical care.


Treatments for postpartum depression are similar to those used for depression. Talking with a therapist can help you find ways to manage your feelings and to make changes to help ease the depression or anxiety. Several medications can treat depression and anxiety effectively and are safe for pregnant women and for breastfeeding moms and their babies. Talk with a healthcare provider about medications that may be right for you. There are some things you can do, in addition to treatment, that may help you feel better.

  • Connect with other moms.
  • Make time for yourself.
  • Do something you enjoy.
  • Be realistic — You don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to be “perfect”.
  • Ask for help.
  • Rest when the baby rests.
  • Be with others.

Depression and anxiety will not go away on their own. With treatment, there is hope.


Some women don’t tell anyone about their symptoms because they feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty about feeling depressed when they are supposed to be happy.

Call your doctor right away if you:

  • have thoughts of hurting the baby or yourself
  • lack interest in the baby

Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms for over 2 weeks:

  • feel restless or moody
  • feel sad, overwhelmed, and hopeless
  • cry a lot
  • lack energy or motivation
  • eat too little or too much
  • sleep too little or too much
  • have trouble focusing or making decisions
  • have memory problems
  • feel worthless and guilty
  • lose interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • withdraw from friends and family
  • have headaches, aches and pains, or stomach problems that don’t go away


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