Your beautiful baby has arrived. You and your partner have survived nine months of nesting, growth and yes, some discomfort. But it is worth it all, now that your little bundle of joy has arrived. Of course you've expected some mood swings, after all – you did just have a baby!

But what if you have continuing feelings of guilt, depression and hopelessness? You might be suffering from the very common condition known as Postpartum Depression (PPD). And it's not your fault.

“Postpartum depression is a complication of symptoms that moms and dads can experience, that usually persist beyond two weeks after the baby is born, which can prevent parents from feeling and functioning at their best,” says Dr. Heather Ross, a physician with 10 years of experience in obstetrical and pediatric medicine.

It's not only new moms who get PPD. According to Ross, PPD affects 10 to 15 percent of new moms and also about 10 percent of new dads. “For moms, it often shows itself as persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, poor concentration and a lack of interest in things they used to enjoy,” says Ross. “Dads [with PPD] might actually be more withdrawn and more impulsive.” She stresses, however, that PPD is different in each person.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), PPD can affect anyone, but there are some risk factors to look out for. One of the most common contributors is prior anxiety or depression. A child with special needs, financial or employment stress can also be a factor.

PPD can strike new parents following the birth of any child, whether it is the first child or the fifth. “If you have had PPD in the past, you are more likely to have it again, but that is not a guarantee,” Ross says.

If you suspect that you or your partner might be suffering from PPD, “There is a long list of things you can do,” Ross says. First and foremost is to be aware of feelings and talking about them with family and your friends so they are aware of how you feel. Ross urges parents to speak with their health care providers as soon as possible, too.

She also recommends remembering to take care of yourself. “Make sure you are making time for exercise if you can,” Ross says. “Go for a walk with the baby. Make sure you are getting good nutrition; eat balanced meals and try to get rest.”

Other treatments include talk therapy, meeting with new parent groups and, if necessary, medication. There are several medications which the FDA has ruled safe for breastfeeding mothers.

Ross, who works at Stork, a childbirth education center, recommends taking classes in parenting before the baby is born. “It can help decrease the chance of PPD symptoms,” she says.

Another sign of PPD is the issue of suicidality. “It is not uncommon for parents to have thoughts of harming themselves and their infants,” Ross says. “Because of the fear and guilt parents may feel, this often hinders them from verbalizing it. This is why it is so crucial that [healthcare] providers ask these tough questions.”

“The take home point in all of this, is that depression and anxiety in parents are real, and there is help out there,” Ross says. “Asking for help … might feel like the hardest thing to do, but it can change the lives of the entire family.”


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Katie Schubert is assistant editor for Washington Parent