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Shining a Light on Postpartum Depression: A Silent Struggle for New Mother

Dr. Connie Liu

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious mental health issue largely associated with childbirth, affecting approximately 10 to 20 percent of new mothers globally.

Despite its prevalence, postpartum depression remains shrouded in stigma, frequently unrecognized and untreated, as many mistake symptoms for normal stress and exhaustion after childbirth, leading to adverse consequences for both mother and child.Depression can make it hard to eat, sleep, work, or enjoy life. It can also make it hard to care for yourself and your baby or other children.

Postpartum depression is different from postpartum blues, maternity blues, or baby blues, which many women experience after childbirth and is a temporary condition that features mild depressive symptoms such as sadness, crying, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, exhaustion, and decreased concentration, as well as rapid, exaggerated changes in mood. Postpartum blues often develops within 2-3 days after childbirth and may peak over the next few days. Postpartum blues differs from postpartum depression in that symptoms are not severe and will resolve by 2 weeks postpartum.

Postpartum depression (PPD) typically begins within the first few weeks after childbirth, but it can start anytime within the first year. Symptoms vary from mild to severe, including persistent sadness, overwhelming fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, and a lack of interest in the newborn.

It’s not clear what causes some people to have postpartum depression, but some risk factors include family history of depression, chronic health issues, stress, lack of social support, and childhood trauma. It is more likely in people who had depression in the past.

The impact of PPD goes beyond the mother's mental health-untreated postpartum depression can negatively affect children's cognitive, social, and emotional development.

The 2 main treatments for postpartum depression are medication and therapy. Most antidepressant medications are safe to use while breastfeeding as well. It’s important to take care of yourself by getting rest and finding healthy ways to destress.

Accept help from a trusted friend or family member to help out with the baby or other household chores when possible. Try to get physical activity when possible. Even gentle forms of activity, like walking, are good for your health.

Efforts are being made to screen all new mothers for postpartum depression. Regular check-ups, both during and after pregnancy, provide opportunities for healthcare providers to detect early signs of PPD and initiate treatment promptly.

Remember, if you or someone you know is struggling with postpartum depression, you are not alone, and help is available. Reach out to your healthcare provider or a mental health professional. Let's break the silence on postpartum depression and ensure that no new mother has to suffer in silence.

If you ever feel like you might hurt yourself or your baby, help is available. Contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. To speak to someone, call or text 988. To talk to someone online, go to Or, proceed to the nearest emergency department at your local hospital by calling 9-1-1.

Dr. Liu is a resident physician who sees patients of all ages and provides obstetrical services at Lone Star Family Health Center, a non-profit 501©3 Federally Qualified Health Center operating facilities in Conroe, Spring, Willis, Grangerland, and Huntsville, and serving as home to a fully integrated Family Medicine Residency Program to increase the number of Family Medicine physicians for Texas and our community.