Fact Sheet --

By Catie McDowell, LMFT and Ellen Rossier, LCSW

Baby Blues:

  • 60-80% of women experience this time-limited experience of weepiness, irritability and anxiety.
  • Result from overwhelming hormonal and life changes after birth
  • Resolve without medical intervention within a couple of weeks

Postpartum Anxiety/Depression:

  • A much smaller percentage of women, about 10-20%, experience Postpartum Depression or Anxiety.
  • Results from dramatic hormonal and biochemical changes, as well as life changes, which occur after birth. Women cannot simply will themselves to feel better.
  • Symptoms include a pervasive sense of sadness, irritability or apathy, exhaustion, difficulty sleeping, disinterest in eating and self-care, extreme anger towards baby and even suicidal feelings. Anxiety, sometimes including panic attacks, is even more common than depression.
  • Women often feel shame and a sense of failure about themselves as mothers.
  • These symptoms are daily experiences, which disrupt a woman’s ability to take care of routine tasks, and last for at least two weeks.
  • These symptoms can begin at any point in the first year after childbirth.

Risk factors:

Women may be at an increased risk if they have experienced the following:

  • A previous episode of Depression or Anxiety, or Postpartum Depression or Anxiety
  • A history of PMS with mood difficulties
  • A family history of Postpartum Depression
  • However, women without the above history can experience PPD


  • May include some combination of psychotherapy, education, group support and medication
  • Critical to work with professionals with expertise with these conditions
  • Developing strategies and getting support in order to get adequate sleep as sleep deprivation can play a major role in the development of PPD
  • Especially important to consult a psychiatrist with knowledge about the safety of different medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • With appropriate treatment, the prognosis for postpartum mood disorders is excellent.
  • Early intervention can make all the difference in a woman’s experience. She should discuss her history of postpartum mood problems with her healthcare     professionals during subsequent pregnancies.


  • Postpartum Support International (805) 967-7636
  • Depression After Delivery (800) 944-4PPD
  • This Isn’t What I Expected (1994) by Karen Kleiman
  • Shouldn’t I Be Happy (1995) by Shaila Misri, MD

Catie McDowell

Licensed Marriage &
Family Therapist


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