Postpartum MYTHS as Developed by The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
- Postpartum depression is normal — all new mothers feel tired and depressed.
- If you don’t get postpartum depression right after you give birth, you won’t get it at all.
- Postpartum depression will go away on its own without treatment.
- All women with postpartum depression have thoughts about hurting their children.
- Women with postpartum depression look depressed or stop taking care of themselves.
- Women with postpartum depression are bad mothers.
- If you have postpartum depression, you must have done something wrong.
- You’ll get over your postpartum depression if you just get more sleep.
- Women with postpartum depression can’t take antidepressants if they are breastfeeding.
- Pregnant and postpartum women don’t get depressed.
Fact: New mothers often feel tired and overwhelmed. They may be experiencing “baby blues.” Women with baby blues may feel tired, weepy, and have no energy. However, the feelings that go with postpartum depression are stronger and longer lasting. A mother may not want to play with her baby. She may have trouble paying attention to things and may not be able to meet her baby’s needs for warmth and affection. She may feel guilty or worthless.
Fact: Postpartum depression can happen any time in the first year after a woman gives birth.
Fact: The “baby blues” may last up to 4 weeks but usually goes away on its own. Like many illnesses, postpartum depression almost never goes away without treatment. The good news is that there are available treatments that work.
Fact: Women with postpartum psychosis, which is a life-threatening disorder separate from postpartum depression, are at risk for hurting their babies or themselves. If you have thoughts about harming yourself or your child you should ask for help right away from your family and your doctor.
Fact: You can’t tell someone has postpartum depression by looking at her. A woman may look perfectly “normal” to everyone else. She may even try especially hard to look polished or put together – keeping her makeup done, and her hair styled – to turn attention away from the pain she is feeling on the inside.
Fact: Having postpartum depression does not make someone a bad mother.
Fact: Postpartum depression is nobody’s fault. There is nothing that a woman with postpartum depression could have done to avoid having this disorder.
Fact: Although it’s important for women with postpartum depression to get enough sleep, sleep by itself will not cure it.
Fact: Studies have shown that there is a very small risk to the baby with the antidepressants most likely to be prescribed for postpartum depression. If it is necessary for a woman with postpartum depression to take an antidepressant, her doctor will carefully choose one that is most likely to help her and least likely to hurt her baby.
Fact: Being pregnant, or having just given birth, is not a guarantee against getting depression. In other words, pregnancy does not protect a woman from depression, and in fact, studies show that the childbearing years are when a woman is most likely to experience depression in her lifetime.