About Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression (PPD)

What is PPD?

Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression is the #1 complication of childbirth, affecting nearly 1 million women in the U.S. each year. Symptoms include a wide range of emotional and physiological reactions that can occur during pregnancy and/or about year postpartum. Every woman experiences PPD differently, but understanding the facts and myths about PPD can help you feel less isolated.

PPD is often more than depression. In fact, many women feel anxious, have scary thoughts, or other feelings they didn’t expect. PPD is an “umbrella” term that covers a wide range of maternal mental health disorders.

Symptoms of PPD

If you’ve found yourself having thoughts similar to the ones listed below, contact POEM about support options:

  • I can’t think straight.
  • I get angry so quickly.
  • I can’t stop crying.
  • I’m totally numb.
  • I can’t fall asleep.
  • I get so irritated with everyone, but especially myself.
  • I worry constantly.
  • My baby hates me.
  • This is so scary.
  • I’m so ashamed.
  • I want to run away.
  • I just can’t slow down.
  • Is this who I am?
  • This guilt is overwhelming.
  • I’m having very scary thoughts.
  • I’m going to feel like this forever.
  • I’m in a fog all the time.
  • Everyone else is a better mom than me.
  • No one understands.

Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression (PPD) describes a number of feelings and symptoms that may occur during the perinatal period—from pregnancy through the first year following childbirth. Having PPD does not mean you must feel depressed or “down,” it is different in everyone it touches. Below are some of the symptoms of which to be aware:

Baby Blues(normal occurrence – not a disorder)Prenatal/Postpartum Depression or AnxietyObsessive Compulsive DisorderPanic DisorderPsychosis*Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
80% of new moms15-20% of new momsRare: 1-2 per 1000
Begins within the 1st week after childbirthOnset anytime from pregnancy thru the 1st year after childbirthTypical onset 2-3 days postpartum
May last a week or two, but will subside on its own5% suicide rate, 4% infanticide rate
WeepinessExcessive WorryIntrusive, repetitive, persistent thoughtsPeriods of extreme anxietyHallucinationsRecurrent nightmares
SadnessDifficulty Making decisions; feeling overwhelmed, can’t “Think Straight”Thoughts of harm coming to the babyDifficulty breathing, chest pain, feelings of choking or smotheringDelusional ThinkingExtreme Anxiety
AnxietySleep difficulties-cannot/too muchTremendous sense of horror and disgust of these thoughts often accompanied by avoidance behaviors in order to cope (i.e. hiding knives)Hot/Cold flashes, shaking, numbness, palpitationsDelirium, ManiaReliving past traumatic events (for example: childbirth; prior emotional, sexual or physical abuse/trauma)
Mood InstabilityFeelings of sadness, guilt, hopelessness, phobiasRepetitive behaviors (counting, cleaning)Fears of dying, going crazy*Requires Immediate Medical Care
Lack of ConcentrationPhysical symptoms/complaints without apparent causeRestlessness, irritability
Discomfort or detachment around the babyExcessive worry, including fear of more panic attacks
Changes in Appetite
Loss of Interest or Pleasure


Who is at risk for developing PPD?

ANY WOMAN who is pregnant or has had a baby. However, there are certain factors that may increase your chances of developing PPD:

  • History of PPD or other mental illness (this can mean you or one of your family members)
  • Being a first-time mom
  • Ambivalence about the pregnancy
  • Lack of social support
  • Lack of a stable relationship with your partner and/or parents
  • Dissatisfaction with yourself
  • Infertility
  • Unrealistic expectations of parenthood
  • Recent stresses
  • Prior adverse reaction to contraceptives or severe PMS
  • Being either a young or an older mom

Keep in mind that an increased risk doesn’t mean you’ll definitely experience pregnancy or postpartum depression. Likewise, having no recognizable risk factors does not mean you won’t. The causes and symptoms of PPD are different for every woman.