Understanding and Overcoming Postpartum Depression: A Guide for New Parents

Isn’t this just what being a parent feels like? NO! Please don’t suffer alone.

By Abigale Johnson

January 23, 2024

Bringing a new life into the world is a joyous and transformative experience. However, for some new parents, the period following childbirth can be accompanied by a range of emotions, including feelings of sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion. These emotions, when persistent and severe, may be indicative of postpartum depression (PPD). We will outline symptoms, explore examples, and provide practical tips to help new parents navigate through this challenging phase.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that affects new parents, typically within the first few weeks or months after childbirth. It is estimated that around 10-20% of new mothers and 10% of new fathers experience PPD. It is important to note that PPD is not a reflection of a person's ability to parent or their love for their child. It is a medical condition that requires understanding, support, and appropriate treatment.

Having a baby is a major life change. PPD can affect anyone who:

  • is pregnant.
  • recently had a baby.
  • had a miscarriage.
  • ended a pregnancy.
  • stopped breastfeeding.

This is more than the “baby blues”. Up to 80% of women experience a range of highs and lows during pregnancy or following the delivery. Usually, these baby blues are mild and pass quickly. Joining a support group for new moms or talking with other parents can help you get a handle on normal baby blues. 


**Men can also experience PPD. The above statistics reflect research conducted in only women.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessnes
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Fatigue and lack of energy, even with adequate rest
  • Changes in appetite, either increased or decreased
  • Difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or excessive self-blame
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby

Postpartum Depression in Fathers

About 10% of all new fathers experience postpartum depression, from the 1st trimester of pregnancy through 1 year postpartum, most commonly when the baby is 3-6 months old. Although there is a lot of overlap, some signs of depression in men may differ from women such as emotional response (frustration, irritability, anger, aggression), spending more or less time at work, withdrawing from family or friends, and substance abuse. The recommended treatment of PPD in fathers is the same as for women.

Real-Life Examples of Postpartum Depression

Okay, but what does this look like really? Sometimes the symptoms are subtle or what society has painted as the “normal new parent experience”, one of the main reasons PPD often is overlooked and ignored. Both examples below highlight what many people think are typical responses to a new baby, but may be symptoms of PPD.

Sarah, a new mother, finds herself constantly crying and feeling overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood. She struggles to bond with her baby and experiences intense guilt for not feeling the expected joy.

Mark, a new father, feels irritable and angry most of the time. He has difficulty sleeping and experiences a loss of interest in activities he once enjoyed. He finds it challenging to connect with his partner and baby.

Tips to Help Overcome Postpartum Depression

  • Seek Professional Help: Reach out to a healthcare provider, such as a doctor or therapist, who specializes in postpartum mental health. They can provide guidance, support, and recommend appropriate treatment options.
  • Build a Support Network: Surround yourself with understanding and empathetic individuals, such as family, friends, or support groups. Sharing your feelings and experiences can help alleviate the sense of isolation. Professional support groups are available at Postpartum Support International (www.postpartum.net), Office on Women’s Health (www.womenshealth.gov), or Online PPD Support Group (www.ppdsupportpage.com).
  • Prioritize Self-Care: Take time for yourself to engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. This can include exercise, meditation, hobbies, or simply taking a break from parenting responsibilities. This can even look like walking into another room for 5 minutes to take a break. Let the baby cry.
  • Communicate with Your Partner: Openly discuss your feelings with your partner and work together to share the responsibilities of parenting. Effective communication and support from your partner can make a significant difference.
  • Take Small Steps: Break tasks into manageable chunks and set realistic goals for yourself. Celebrate small victories and be gentle with yourself during this challenging time.
  • Educate Yourself: Learn more about postpartum depression and its effects. Understanding the condition can help you navigate through it and seek appropriate help when needed.
  • Consider Therapy Options: Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy (IPT), can be effective in treating postpartum depression. It provides a safe space to explore and address underlying emotions and challenges.
  • Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help manage the symptoms of postpartum depression. Consult with a healthcare professional to determine if medication is appropriate for you.

Postpartum depression is a common and treatable condition that affects many new parents. By recognizing the symptoms, seeking support, and implementing self-care strategies, it is possible to overcome PPD and enjoy the journey of parenthood. Remember, you are not alone, and help is available. Reach out, prioritize your mental health, and embrace the joy that comes with being a new parent.

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