3 Worrying Signs of Postpartum Depression

Photograph of young mother holding infant and looking out window. She shows signs of postpartum depression.

How do you know if you’re dealing with normal baby blues or more serious postpartum depression?  Here are some worrying signs of postpartum depression to look out for:*

You Feel Empty Or You Just Feel Nothing

Sure, the exhaustion and hormonal wackiness of those early days of motherhood are going to play havoc with with emotions.  But if you find yourself feeling numb more often than not, this may be one of the signs of postpartum depression.

Some mothers describe this as feeling like they’re just going through the motions, feeling disconnected from everything, or feeling like a robot  If you’re a mother with a trauma history this feeling may be uncomfortably similar to the PTSD symptoms you experienced.

You Feel Irritated, Angry, Or Enraged About Little Things

Again, if you’re not sleeping much and your body’s hormonal system is changing then yes, it’s normal to have times of being less patient than you usually are.  But if you’re feeling irritated a lot of the time at your baby, partner, other children, friends, or family, then you may be experiencing one of the signs of postpartum depression.

One day, when my kiddo was less than a month old, I felt overwhelming anger at him.  I can’t remember the details, but I think he just needed to be cuddled.  I was so physically and emotionally exhausted I felt like I couldn’t handle it.  Fortunately, I never acted on my anger but I did talk to my partner and friends and was able to get some extra support.  I also told myself that if I ever felt like that again I would get professional help.

You Feel Hopeless, Like a Failure, Or Believe Your Baby Would Be Better Off Without You

You feel guilty because you think you should be doing a better job at adjusting to motherhood.  Or maybe you think your baby deserves a better mother than you.  Perhaps you’re worried that your baby can sense how bad you feel.  Or maybe you’re concerned that you’re not as connected to your baby as you should be.  If you’re feeling any of this then you may be noticing one of the signs of postpartum depression.

These feelings are often the most worrying of all for mothers.  Most of us imagine that once our baby is born, we will hold them in our arms and experience a feeling of love and bliss unlike any other.  When this does not happen, or doesn’t seem to happen enough, mothers are quick to blame themselves.  This guilt and shame tends to just make mothers feel worse and cause them to get stuck in a cycle of hopelessness and disconnection.

How You Can Get Help For Signs Of Postpartum Depression

Medication and/or counseling are the recommended treatments for postpartum depression.  Talk to your ob/gyn about medication options or a referral to a therapist.  I know many mothers are concerned about medication and breastfeeding, but there are some drugs which are considered compatible with nursing.  Your friends and family members may also be able to recommend a good therapist to you.

I offer counseling services to mothers who are dealing with a wide variety of issues.  Appointments can take place in my office or online.  If you’re interested in working with me or have questions, please call or email me for a free 15-minute consultation.  I’m happy to help.

*For a much more detailed discussion of postpartum depression, see the National Institute of Mental Health’s Postpartum Depression Facts