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Postpartum Depression
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Postpartum depression

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Emotional & Mental Health

When to seek medical advice

If you're feeling depressed after your baby's birth, you may be reluctant or embarrassed to admit it. But it's important to tell your doctor. The baby blues and postpartum depression generally respond well to a combination of self-care measures and medical treatment. Early intervention can lead to a more rapid recovery.

The baby blues generally disappear within 10 days of childbirth. Getting more rest and accepting help from friends and family may help you better cope with your feelings. However, if the signs and symptoms of depression don't lessen after a few weeks or if they're so severe that they interfere with your ability to complete everyday tasks, call your doctor. You may have a more severe form of depression that requires medical treatment.

If you suspect that you or someone you know is developing postpartum psychosis, seek medical attention immediately. Don't wait and hope for improvement. Postpartum psychosis may lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors. In fact, research suggests that 5 percent of women with postpartum psychosis commit suicide and 5 percent kill their children — rates much higher than those found in the general population. The rate of suicide in the general population is 1 percent. The rate of infanticide in the general population — the killing of a child under age 5 — is just a tiny fraction of a percent.

Screening and diagnosis

To assess the possibility of postpartum depression, your doctor needs to review your signs and symptoms in person. Because feeling tired and overwhelmed after giving birth is common, the doctor may use a depression-screening questionnaire to distinguish between a short-term case of the baby blues and a more severe form of depression. An example is the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. It has just 10 questions, which you answer by circling the response that best describes how you feel.

Your doctor may also conduct a blood test to determine whether an underactive thyroid might be causing your depression. If it isn't producing enough hormones, you may feel tired, sluggish and depressed. If this is the case, your doctor can prescribe thyroid medication.


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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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