Estimates indicate that somewhere between ten and thirteen percent of women who deliver babies experience postpartum depression and sometimes, anxiety. Anxiety and postpartum depression often go hand-in-hand simply because of the immense life changes that occur with the arrival of a baby.
Even in women with no previous history of depression, worries about being a good mother, unrealistic expectations of themselves, massive hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and childbirth, and the financial changes that often accompany parenthood can combine to create a situation where postpartum depression and anxiety can lead to overwhelming feelings of helplessness, fear, sadness, listlessness, sleep difficulties, and paralyzing disinterest in activities that you once found enjoyable and interesting.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you are experiencing any of the above feelings, and especially if the feelings have persisted more than a couple of weeks following the birth of your baby, you should consult your physician. Your doctor can administer a simple test for postpartum depression to determine if you would benefit from drug therapy or counseling. Anxiety and postpartum depression are potentially serious conditions-much more than just "a case of the blues" that goes away in a couple of days. If left untreated or ignored, postpartum depression and anxiety can deepen and intensify, making your life-and that of your baby and loved ones-needlessly difficult.
Some women can be more at risk than others for postpartum depression and anxiety. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (womenshealth.gov), you may be at greater risk if you have a history of substance abuse, if you are becoming a mother at a very young age, if you have had difficulties with previous pregnancies, if you have a previous history or family history of depression, if you have anxious or negative feelings about your pregnancy, if you are not receiving emotional or other support from friends and family during your pregnancy, or if you have recently experienced other stressful life events.
If you believe you have one or more of these risk factors, you should discuss it with your doctor and decide on a course that could prevent or relieve postpartum depression and anxiety. Even if you don't have any of the above factors, however, you should still remain aware of your feelings. While a mild case of "the baby blues" is not unusual after childbirth, deep or unrelenting sadness, insomnia, fear, or anxiety that persists for more than a week or two is not normal and may indicate the presence of postpartum depression and anxiety.