When a mother-to-be looks forward to life with a newborn, she might envision a scene out of a Hallmark card, the new parents bathed in a rosy glow, smiling lovingly down at their baby. And there will be those times, of course: The birth of a child is a time that most parents look back on as a high point in life.
But for many women, the period after giving birth can be an unexpected low time. An astonishing number of women—from 70 to 80 percent, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—feel depressed in the days after their babies are born. And about 10 percent experience a more serious ailment called postpartum depression (PPD).
Postpartum depression is not the same as the baby blues, the short-term anxiety and fatigue that typically fades in five days to two weeks. PPD can be extremely debilitating, and it can last a year after the baby is born. However, with treatment and counseling, these feelings usually go away.
Some women with postpartum depression have difficulty performing routine tasks. They may feel emotionally numb, and they may worry that they'll harm their baby. In addition to sadness, women with PPD may suffer from headaches, chest pain, heart palpitations, hyperventilation, and unusual weight loss or weight gain.