Postpartum depression can be debilitating, but it is not a personal failing. If you are feeling sad or anxious after childbirth, you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, postpartum depression may affect as many as 1 in 5 women. Use the following guide to learn how postpartum depression can be treated and overcome.

What Is It?

Postpartum depression is a type of mood disorder that affects some mothers after giving birth. Having a baby ushers in a mix of emotions. In the first few days after labor and delivery, many mothers experience the “baby blues”—strong feelings of sadness and irritability brought on by drops in hormone levels. Postpartum depression occurs when these feelings—depression, anxiety, and exhaustion—persist for weeks and months following a birth, interfering with a mother’s ability to complete daily activities or care for herself and her family. Although uncommon, some fathers may also experience postpartum depression.

What Are the Causes?

There’s no single cause of postpartum depression. Typically, a combination of factors, both emotional and physical, causes it. After childbirth, many women experience mood swings and physical exhaustion. Feelings of guilt may overwhelm some women who are unable to breastfeed. Fatigue, financial strain, and isolation can contribute to postpartum depression.

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms vary from mother to mother. Common symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Frequent crying spells
  • Feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and anger
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Recurring thoughts of harming self or family
  • Severe anxiety attacks
  • Loss of appetite
  • Social isolation

What Are the Treatments?

Left untreated, postpartum depression can last for months or years and compromise the mental health and well-being of both mother and child. Anyone experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression should be encouraged to talk about how they feel and see a health care provider who can confirm the diagnosis. Recommended treatments include medication, talk therapy, and individualized plans designed to help patients recover and overcome their depression.