I’m about to give birth or have given birth recently, and I’m concerned about how I feel emotionally. What’s important for me to know?
Caring for a newborn is challenging, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed after giving birth. There are biological, emotional, financial, and social changes postpartum (after birth).
What’s the difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression?
Hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, decrease drastically after giving birth, and that’s why 75% of new moms experience the “baby blues.”1 It’s normal to have mood swings, anxiety, crying spells, and sleep troubles because of these hormone changes. These can start immediately or a couple days after delivery and can last up to two weeks.
But for some new moms, these symptoms last longer and develop into a more severe form of depression known as postpartum depression, which can last for months to years after childbirth. Postpartum depression can also be called peripartum depression because it can start during pregnancy. We will refer to it as postpartum depression.
Around 1-in-7 women can develop postpartum depression.2 It can impact you, your spouse or partner, and the baby. And, just like a serious health condition, it may need to be treated by a health or mental health professional.
What are symptoms of postpartum depression?
- Persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
- Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Feeling like you’re not bonding with the baby
- Thinking the baby belongs to someone else
- Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- Withdrawing from friends and loved ones
- Irritability, anxiety, or feelings of worthlessness
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby
Some new moms don’t tell people about their symptoms because they feel ashamed, embarrassed, or guilty about how they feel. They worry they’re a bad mom for feeling this way or they’re being judged by friends and family. These thoughts or feelings do not make you a bad mom. Any person who’s just given birth can feel this way. It doesn’t matter your age, income, race, or where you live, postpartum depression can happen to anyone.
Postpartum depression is a medical condition that needs treatment. It is not a sign of weakness.
There is help for you and your baby. The sooner you know the signs, the sooner you can get medical help and can start feeling better.
Are certain people more likely to develop postpartum depression?
Yes, certain people are more at risk for developing postpartum depression, including those with:3
- Personal or family history of depression, postpartum depression, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- Conflict in the marriage or partnership, including verbal, sexual, or physical abuse
- Limited or no support from family or friends
- Pregnancy complications like health conditions, difficult delivery, or premature birth
- Preterm or low birth weight infant
- Moms younger than 20 years old or a single parent
- Substance or alcohol use issues
- A baby with special needs or a baby who cries a lot
- Difficulty breastfeeding
- Lower incomes
Women who are Black or Hispanic are less likely to receive treatment for postpartum depression. Studies also show that Black and Hispanic women are also less likely to refill medication and receive follow-up care from a doctor.4
Understanding risk factors and symptoms can help you advocate for your health so you can get better.
Does postpartum depression happen to people who’ve given birth before?
Yes, it can happen to both experienced moms and new moms. You can still develop postpartum depression even if you didn't have it with prior births. If you’ve had postpartum depression before, you have a 30% increase of developing postpartum depression again with each pregnancy.5
I think I have postpartum depression. What should I do?
First, know that you’re not alone in these feelings. Many moms are in the same boat. Here are some next steps:
- See your doctor. It’s very important your doctor know your symptoms and how you’re feeling so you can get the necessary medical care you need. They can help you find the treatment that will best help you, which might be therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Plan ahead for how you are going to talk to your doctor. One suggestion is to write down how you’re feeling and if you can’t talk about it, show it to your doctor.
- If you’re enrolled in the Florida Blue Healthy Addition® program, call your registered nurse who can help you. If you’re a Florida Blue member and expecting a baby, you can enroll in the Healthy Addition program. Email HealthyAddition@FloridaBlue.com, or call 1-800-955-7635 and select option 6.
- Tell your support system. Trust in your partner, spouse, friend, and/or family member who is supporting you. It’s important they know what you’re going through so they can help you with childcare and emotional support.
- Connect with new moms. Join online or in-person support communities of other new moms. Surrounding yourself with people who know what you’re going through can really help.
- Take antidepressants or other medications prescribed by your doctor.
- Small steps for self-care. It can feel difficult to carve out time for yourself when you have a newborn baby and maybe other children, but finding time to do things like take a shower, eat, go for short walks, and rest is vital so you can get better. When you’re feeling better, you’ll have more energy for the baby. Ask your support system for help.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is the foundation for feeling better. Eat proteins, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Take the baby for a walk around the block so you can get some exercise. Try to get as much sleep and rest as possible.
- Avoid alcohol and other substances. Alcohol can worsen feelings of depression or hopelessness. Mothers who are breastfeeding can pass these through the milk to the baby, which can have long-term health consequences for the baby.
- Seek the sun. Try to get outside daily and keep blinds and curtains open inside the house.
Can I breastfeed while on antidepressants?
Certain antidepressants are safe while breast feeding, but this should be a decision made with your doctor after discussing risks and benefits of medication and potential risk of untreated postpartum depression.
My partner just had a baby, and I think they have postpartum depression. What should I do?
First, be a constant support. Find ways to help them without asking what needs to be done so they can recover, like:
- Changing diapers
- Caring for the baby so they can shower or nap
- Picking up around the house or doing the laundry
- Preparing or getting nutritious meals for them
- Listen to their concerns or complaints and encourage them to seek medical help
- Offer to go to medical appointments and support them through follow up care
- If you are worried that you or someone you love is in immediate danger, call 911.
What should I do in an emergency?
If you have thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988* immediately. Don’t wait! Trained counselors are available to talk with people who are in serious emotional distress and having suicidal thoughts.
If you are worried that you or someone you love is in immediate danger, call 911.
What’s postpartum psychosis?
First, know that postpartum psychosis is rare. Only about 4 in 1,000 new mothers develop the condition. It usually develops two weeks after childbirth and is a medical emergency. New moms who have bipolar or schizoaffective disorder are at a higher risk of developing this.6
- Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
- Feeling confused most of the time
- Having rapid mood swings within several minutes (for example, crying hysterically, then laughing a lot, followed by extreme sadness)
- Trying to hurt yourself or your baby
- Paranoia (thinking that others are focused on harming you)
- Restlessness or agitation
- Behaving recklessly or in a way that is not normal for you
If you or a loved one is showing signs or symptoms of postpartum psychosis, it’s important to go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.
Where can I learn more about pregnancy and maternity care?
You can read more about pregnancy and maternity care here.
What else can I do to help support my mental wellbeing?
Pregnancy and caring for a newborn can be both a time of joy and stress. Physical health and mental well-being are important for both mom and baby. For eligible plan members, the meQuilibrium program is a digital mental well-being solution that can help you achieve balance during your pregnancy with techniques to help you manage stress and anxiety.**
Our community specialists are available to help both members and nonmembers. Community specialists connect you to needed community support resources like food programs, transportation services, financial, and housing assistance programs. Stop by a Florida Blue Center near you to find a specialist. To find the nearest Florida Blue Center, visit FloridaBlue.com/Center or call 1-877-352-5830.
It is important to always speak to your maternity care team about how you are feeling. They will help you get the help you need.
Don’t hesitate to call our behavioral health care partner, Lucet, at 1-866-287-9569.*** They can help you locate a licensed therapist who meets your needs. They may also be able to schedule your in-person or virtual visit with a therapist for you.
1Cleveland Clinic. Postpartum Depression.
2National Library of Medicine. Postpartum Depression.
3Cleveland Clinic. Postpartum Depression.
4National Library of Medicine. Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Postpartum Depression Care Among Low-Income Women.
5Cleveland Clinic. Postpartum Depression.
6Office on Women’s Health. Postpartum Depression.
*988 is the call number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, an independent company offering mental health counselling via phone call or text.
**meQuilibrium is an independent company contracted by Florida Blue to provide health and wellness services and resources to members. This benefit is available to Florida Blue members age 18 and older. Eligibility is limited to members with an individual or family plan, an individual or family ACA plan and members with coverage from their fully insured group employer health plan.
***Florida Blue contracts with Lucet, a New Directions Behavioral Health company, to provide behavioral health services.