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What is Postpartum Depression?

75 - 80% of women experience emotional changes following childbirth. 10-20% of new mothers will experience a Postpartum Mood Disorder.

The most common postpartum mood disorder is postpartum depression, effecting around 15% of new mothers making it the most common complication of child birth. If untreated it can become chronic and have negative effects on the baby such as: poor attachment and bonding, behavioral, developmental, cognitive and emotional problems (Chase-Brand, 2008). It is very treatable with psychotherapy and in more severe cases, medication.

If your “baby blues” last more than 2-3 weeks, or if you feel like life is not worth living, you may have PPD.

Common symptoms:

  • Sadness, Crying
  • Anxiety, Worry, Fears
  • Anger, Guilt
  • Thoughts of inadequacy as a parent
  • Sense of loss of control
  • Feeling disconnected from the baby
  • Insomnia
  • Appetite Changes
  • Poor concentration & decision making
  • Worthlessness, Hopelessness
  • Lack of interest in usual activities
  • Suicidal Ideation

Other postpartum mood disorders include: Anxiety Disorders such as Panic Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Less commonly occurring is Postpartum Psychosis.

Sometimes the above mood disorders arise during pregnancy.

If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, please seek help immediately. 

Risk Factors for a Postpartum Mood Disorder

  • History of depression, panic, extreme anxiety, OCT, bipolar disorder, psychosis, or an eating disorder

  • Previous pregnancy or postpartum mood disorder
  • History of taking psychotropic medications
  • History of severe premenstrual mood changes
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Lack of support
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Perfectionism
  • Traumatic childbirth experience

Self-Care Strategies for Postpartum Depression

Here are some self-care strategies (in addition to counseling and, in some cases, medication) to both help prevent and care for PPD:

· * Eat a balanced diet: small frequent meals, limit sugar and caffeine, increase protein intake. This keeps your energy up and keeps blood sugar levels (and therefore mood) more stable.

· *Get as much sleep as possible: sleep deprivation is one of the greatest contributors to depression. Try asking your partner or a support person to take a shift with the baby at night so that you can get a longer stretch of sleep every once and a while.

· *Get regular exercise as much as you can; Nothing too strenuous; daily walks with the baby are good.

· *Get outside and get as much sunlight as possible: Keep you curtains open to let sunlight in the house.

· *Avoid using alcohol or other substances as a way to feel better; Alcohol consumption can exacerbate depression.

· *Try playing stimulating music during the day and calming music in the evenings.

· *Avoid being alone all the time: schedule visits and outings with family and friends

· *Tell loved ones what is going on for you, be honest with yourself and them about your feelings and your struggle

· *Take breaks from baby for about 2 hours a couple times per week to do something for yourself, loved ones will enjoy this time to bond with baby.

· *Limit activities that are very stimulating.

· *Go to a new moms' support group, one where talking about feelings and challenges is encouraged. Other mothers can provide first hand understanding of the challenges of being a new mother. Click here for information on a weekly new moms' group

· *Consider consulting a nutritionist. Low levels of amino acids, vitamins B6, C, B12, folic acid, and magnesium can contribute to depression.

· *Psychotherapy: psychotherapy is incredibly helpful, and even essential in many cases of PPD. A relationship with an experienced Licensed Practical Counselor or Social Worker specializing in PPD can help you learn tools to cope with the depression and keep it from getting worse. As a therapist specializing in PPD, if you need, I can see you in your home during the first few weeks postpartum, and once you feel more mobile, I will see you in my office.  


Bennett, Shoshana and Indman, Pec. Beyond the Blues: A guide to understanding and treating postpartum depression. Moodswings Press, 2006

Depression After Childbirth, Kaiser Permanente, Version 9.2.102713, Last Revised July 14, 2011

Natural Cures for Postpartum Depression,

Depression Remedies by Cathy Wong, Guide, Updated May 28, 2012

Resource List

Crisis Support

Boulder Crisis Line 303-447-1665


"Beyond the Blues: A guide to understanding and treating postpartum depression" Bennett, Shoshana and Indman, Pec

"The Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety Workbook" by Wiegartz and Gyoerkoe

"Women's Moods: What Every Woman Must Know About Hormones, the Brain, and Emotional Health" by Deborah Sichel, Jeanne Watson Driscoll


Postpartum Support International-  

Sleep Specialist

Eileen Henry