But how do you know you have it? While each woman is different, there are consistent themes when it comes to symptoms, say Mary L. Rosser, M.D., Ph.D., director, department of obstetrics and gynecology, Montefiore Health System, and Allison Kurzman, M.D., psychiatrist and clinical instructor of psychiatry at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
You may experience one, a combination of a few, or all of the symptoms, although it varies by individual, according to Rosser and Kurzman. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, those who have experienced depression or bipolar disorder before, have a family history of mental illness, had medical complications during childbirth, or lacked emotional support from a partner, family, or friends during pregnancy could all be at an increased risk.
Here are some signs you should visit your ob-gyn for a diagnosis—and treatment plan:
1. Making Choices Seems Terrifying or Impossible
You may be extremely anxious, says Rosser, who explains that the idea of making a choice regarding your baby can feel stifling and scary because you could be afraid of doing something wrong if you have PPD. You may also feel worried all the time that you’re not doing a good job mothering and need constant reassurance, she says.
2. You’re Not Sleeping—Even When Your Baby Is
Most moms don’t get adequate sleep in the beginning (you do have to feed and care for your newborn through the night, after all). But Kurzman says that many of her patients with PPD struggle to snooze even when their baby is finally sleeping through the night. In turn, this lack of sleep could lead to major problems focusing on daily tasks.
3. You Feel Despondent All the Time
Rosser says it’s normal to have a moderate amount of tears and stress(a.k.a. “baby blues”) for a few weeks after giving birth. But if the feelings continue past that point and impact your daily life, it could be PPD.
4. You Have Thoughts of Hurting Yourself or Your Baby
“Some women have visions of, ‘What if I dropped the baby in the bath?’ but they would never do that,” says Kurzman. But even if you’d never act on these thoughts, you may feel horrified by them and be too embarrassed to tell anyone, she says. There’s no reason to be ashamed, though, and it’s important to seek medical attention ASAP if this is something you’re dealing with, for you and your baby’s safety.