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Help With Postpartum Depression

Curated and updated for the community by APA

For most women, having a baby is a very exciting, joyous, and often anxious time. But for women with postpartum, or peripartum, depression it can become very distressing and difficult. Postpartum depression is a serious, but treatable medical illness involving feelings of extreme sadness, indifference and/or anxiety, as well as changes in energy, sleep, and appetite. It carries risks for the mother and child.

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My sister had a baby a couple of weeks ago and I can see she’s not herself and is hurting. I don’t want to offend her by suggesting she get help, how can I help her?

When someone we love is suffering, it's natural to want to give advice. And at the same time, we may fear that our unsolicited advice will put them on the defense. However, given that the risks for untreated peripartum depression are so great, including preterm birth and social, emotional, and cognitive deficits in the baby years later, it is crucial our loved one receive timely support. Some thoughts on how to help your sister: offer to spend time with her, let her take naps, join her for a walk, allow her to engage in self-care in the way she finds most effective (such as taking a shower, eating a meal in silence or with a friend or partner, or getting out of the house for a manicure or haircut).

Ask her how she is sleeping, and how her mood is. Let her know you are not judging her and you are there to help — empathize, validate and normalize her experience. For example, you can say: “I can only imagine what you’re going through,” or “This must be a really rough time,” or “You are doing such a great job.” Read More

Is it possible for a new father to experience peripartum depression?

Absolutely. A new baby is an immense joy as well as a lot of work! It can be a stressor for the entire family. About 4 percent of fathers will experience symptoms of postpartum depression. New fathers with a personal or family history of depression, those feeling unprepared and those dealing with unemployment/ financial difficulties may be at greater risk. Struggling with work-life balance, difficulties with communication and division of labor in the family can all exacerbate the transition into fatherhood. Read More

I am pregnant and have been diagnosed with peripartum depression. In addition to the psychotherapy my doctor recommended, what can I do for myself to keep me and my baby healthy?

Get as much support as possible, for example look for a new moms’ group or even the second or third time moms’ groups through your local hospital. Try to line up several reliable family members or friends to help or get hired help. Plan as much in advance as possible, take shifts, make selfcare a priority. Spend 15 minutes a day checking in with your partner about non-baby related issues. The basics are key—eating well, sleep, and exercise within reason. Shoulder rubs from your partner, and if you can afford to splurge, a massage, can help. Touch can be very relaxing and soothing, especially with all the aches and pains of our bodies creating and carrying another human for almost a year! Setting realistic expectations, working on communication, asking for help, learning relaxation techniques (such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, mindfulness and yoga) can also help. Consider talking with your doctor about medication in moderate to serious cases. Read More


About the Expert

Sudeepta Varma, M.D., PC, FAPA is a board certified psychiatrist with a private practice in Manhattan. She is also a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center and a frequent media contributor.

Patient Stories

Maya is a 32-year-old fit, vibrant lawyer. She had been married for more than two years and was expecting her first child, a baby boy. She had a history of depression and generalized anxiety disorder.

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Have a Story of Your Own to Share?

Editor's Choice

MAR 2, 2017

Intrusive Thoughts: My Journey With Postpartum Depression

Huffington Post

It’s taken me one year, three months, twenty-nine days and 7 hours to finally write about my postpartum experience. I know that every type of funk that comes with postpartum depression is equally as awful due to the anxiety, extreme sadness, fear and rage that accompanies it. The type that showed up for me ultimately shook me to my core and it’s gut-wrenchingly hard and embarrassing to talk about.

MAR 2, 2017

Why Do Men Suffer from Postpartum Depression?

Paste Magazine

Postpartum depression has come into light recently as celebrities have talked openly about their experiences after birth. But new moms aren’t the only ones who are suffering from postpartum depression. Research, published in JAMA Psychiatry, found that some new fathers are struggling too.

FEB 22, 2017

DC: Postpartum depression decreases from 2004 to 2012


Postpartum depressive symptoms decreased from 2004 to 2012, but remain prevalent among women in the U.S., according to CDC data. Postpartum depression is common and associated with adverse infant and maternal outcomes (eg, lower breastfeeding initiation and duration and poor maternal and infant bonding).


Physician Review By:

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
March 2017