The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety (in Plain Mama English)

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postpartum depression What does it feel like to have postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety?  What are the signs or symptoms?  How do you know when you have it? And if you do have it, what should you do?

Below we will explain the signs of postpartum depression and anxiety, but in what we call “plain mama English.”  We won’t use words like hypomania or dysthymia — the kind of confusing terms you might see elsewhere.  We will use the words thousands of other moms have used who have already been through this. Words that make sense. After that, we’ll give you some links to some really helpful resources and information. You are not alone. Here at Postpartum Progress we understand and we’re happy to help.

When you read the two different symptoms lists below, one for postpartum depression and the one after it for postpartum anxiety and OCD, please remember a few very important things:

  1. You may not be experiencing all of the symptoms listed below or even most of them. Postpartum depression and anxiety are not “one-size-fits-all” illnesses.  Your experience may include just a few of the symptoms and you may not have others at all.
  2. Many people have a feeling like the ones listed below every now and then, for a day or two. We all have bad days. Postpartum depression and anxiety are not just bad days.  Women with PPD or anxiety have symptoms like these most of the time, for a period of at least 2 weeks or longer, and these symptoms make it feel very hard to live your life each day.
  3. Postpartum depression and anxiety are sometimes “comorbid.”  This means you can have a bit of both, or all of both.  If you have symptoms on both lists, that’s not unusual.

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Okay.  Here we go. You may have postpartum depression if you have had a baby within the last 12 months and are experiencing some of these symptoms:

  • You feel overwhelmed.  Not like “hey, this new mom thing is hard.”  More like “I can’t do this and I’m never going to be able to do this.”  You feel like you just can’t handle being a mother.  In fact, you may be wondering whether you should have become a mother in the first place.
  • You feel guilty because you believe you should be handling new motherhood better than this.  You feel like your baby deserves better.  You worry whether your baby can tell that you feel so bad, or that you are crying so much, or that you don’t feel the happiness or connection that you thought you would.  You may wonder whether your baby would be better off without you.
  • You don’t feel bonded to your baby.  You’re not having that mythical mommy bliss that you see on TV or read about in magazines. Not everyone with PPD feels this way, but many do.
  • You can’t understand why this is happening.  You are very confused and scared.
  • You feel irritated or angry. You have no patience. Everything annoys you.  You feel resentment toward your baby, or your partner, or your friends who don’t have babies. You feel out-of-control rage.
  • You feel nothing. Emptiness and numbness. You are just going through the motions.
  • You feel sadness to the depths of your soul. You can’t stop crying, even when there’s no real reason to be crying.
  • You feel hopeless, like this situation will never ever get better. You feel weak and defective, like a failure.
  • You can’t bring yourself to eat, or perhaps the only thing that makes you feel better is eating.
  • You can’t sleep when the baby sleeps, nor can you sleep at any other time. Or maybe you can fall asleep, but you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep no matter how tired you are.  Or maybe all you can do is sleep and you can’t seem to stay awake to get the most basic things done.  Whichever it is, your sleeping is completely screwed up and it’s not just because you have a newborn.
  • You can’t concentrate. You can’t focus. You can’t think of the words you want to say. You can’t remember what you were supposed to do. You can’t make a decision. You feel like you’re in a fog.
  • You feel disconnected. You feel strangely apart from everyone for some reason, like there’s an invisible wall between you and the rest of the world.
  • Maybe you’re doing everything right. You are exercising. You are taking your vitamins. You have a healthy spirituality.  You do yoga. You’re thinking “Why can’t I just get over this?”  You feel like you should be able to snap out of it, but you can’t.
  • You might be having thoughts of running away and leaving your family behind. Or you’ve thought of driving off the road, or taking too many pills, or finding some other way to end this misery.
  • You know something is wrong. You may not know you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, but you know the way you are feeling is NOT right. You think you’ve “gone crazy”.
  • You are afraid that this is your new reality and that you’ve lost the “old you” forever.
  • You are afraid that if you reach out for help people will judge you. Or that your baby will be taken away.

Postpartum Anxiety & OCD

You may have postpartum anxiety or postpartum OCD if you have had a baby within the last 12 months and are experiencing some of these symptoms:

  • Your thoughts are racing. You can’t quiet your mind. You can’t settle down. You can’t relax.
  • You feel like you have to be doing something at all times. Cleaning bottles. Cleaning baby clothes. Cleaning the house. Doing work. Entertaining the baby. Checking on the baby.
  • You are worried. Really worried.  All. The. Time.  Am I doing this right?  Will my husband come home from his trip?  Will the baby wake up? Is the baby eating enough? Is there something wrong with my baby that I’m missing? No matter what anyone says to reassure you it doesn’t help.
  • You may be having disturbing thoughts.  Thoughts that you’ve never had before.  Scary thoughts that make you wonder whether you aren’t the person you thought you were.  They fly into your head unwanted and you know they aren’t right, that this isn’t the real you, but they terrify you and they won’t go away.  These thoughts may start with the words “What if …”
  • You are afraid to be alone with your baby because of scary thoughts or worries.  You are also afraid of things in your house that could potentially cause harm, like kitchen knives or stairs, and you avoid them like the plague.
  • You may feel the need to check things constantly. Did I lock the door?  Did I lock the car? Did I turn off the oven? Is the baby breathing?
  • You may be having physical symptoms like stomach cramps or headaches, shakiness or nausea.  You might even have panic attacks.
  • You feel like a captive animal, pacing back and forth in a cage. Restless.  On edge.
  • You can’t eat.  You have no appetite.
  • You’re having trouble sleeping.  You are so, so tired, but you can’t sleep.
  • You feel a sense of dread, like something terrible is going to happen.
  • You know something is wrong.  You may not know you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, but you know the way you are feeling is NOT right. You think you’ve “gone crazy”.
  • You are afraid that this is your new reality and that you’ve lost the “old you” forever.
  • You are afraid that if you reach out for help people will judge you.  Or that your baby will be taken away.

Now that you’ve gone through these lists are you thinking “How the heck does this lady know me? Is there a hidden camera in here?”  Nope.  What this should tell you is that you are not alone and you are not a freak and you are not highly unusual.  If you are having these feelings and symptoms then it is possible you are experiencing common illnesses that 15 to 20% of new mothers have, and they are completely treatable. We’re happy to be here to support you.

Postpartum Depression Help

Postpartum Progress is a nonprofit created by moms for moms with maternal mental illness. We know what it’s like and we know how hard it is. Here are some of our best resources for moms with postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and related illnesses:

 Other Things You Should Know

  • If you are pregnant and are having symptoms similar to those listed above, you should know that you aren’t unusual either.  You may have depression or anxiety during pregnancy, which is just as common.
  • If you are having the symptoms listed above, call your doctor.  There is no need to suffer alone. Don’t try to wait this out. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are temporary and treatable with professional help.
  • If you are already past the first year postpartum and still suffering you could still have PPD or anxiety. Perhaps you never reached out for help in the first year and you are still struggling. Call your doctor. You can still get help for this.
  • One last but very important thing:  If you are having moments where it seems like you can see or hear things no one else does, if you are feeling paranoid as if others are out to get you, if you are feeling that you or your baby are somehow related to the devil or God in some way, or if you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, it’s important to reach out for help right now.  These symptoms require immediate attention as they could be signs of postpartum psychosis.  If you have these symptoms, your illness has the potential to take over and lead you to do things that you wouldn’t normally do.  In order to avoid that it is important to reach out for help right away so that trained professionals can help you get stabilized and healthy.


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  93. Thanks for the list many moms have post part depression with not just the 1st pregnancy. Maybe talking about rage or harming other kids in the home?

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  125. I feel lost! I want to cry but cant* I feel on edge 24/7* I feel anxious, scared, worried, irritated, sad, nauseous, shaky! But yet sometimes happy. I can’t explain it!!!! Help:(

    • Have you called your doctor Demi? That would be a good place to start. Those feelings could be just temporary, but if you find they last for a couple of weeks in a row without going away and that they prevent you from functioning as you would like, it’s definitely worth reaching out to a healthcare provider. ~ K

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    • Tracie, for some moms it goes away and for others it can turn into chronic depression or anxiety. This is why getting treatment is so important. If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression symptoms, whether you’re in the first year postpartum or not, there is help. I would definitely reach out to my doctor to discuss how you’ve been feeling and what your treatment options might be.

      • Sometimes when I get out of the house I get anxious ti get home. This is the only symptom I have I have a three month old and a four year old everyone said it will go away its just because I had a c section and don’t get enough sleep. But I want to go out
        and do stuff but fear I am to exhausted

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  133. I don’t have insurance. Are there any free agencies that help with this? My daughter is almost 10 months old and I haven’t felt like myself since I’ve had her. I have two older children and didn’t feel anything like this after having them and I just can’t get past this weird moody/irrational feelings. I feel lost and numb and just not normal.

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  154. I am experiencing this, is there a prescription I can get? It’s gotten a little better with some counseling and I have started a part time job

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  167. I already knew several of those are things I’ve been struggling with, but this was written so well that it really and truly helped me remember that it’s all okay. I have to share this. Thank you for this.

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  172. Im feeling almost everything listed on here but im scared to get my kids taken away. I Have two Kids a 2 year Old and a 7 month

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  175. This is the first site I’ve read in my search and I feel like I don ‘t need to look further. However, I will because that what good research does. Nevertheless, I find the information on this site to be comprehensive and informative. I now know that this is what my daughter is experiencing. She never got the help she needs since having my granddaughter almost 3 years ago. But, I’m thankful to know that I’ve done some of the things suggested in “how to help mothers with PPD”. Thank you soooo much….P.S. Please let me know if she can still get the help she needs at this stage.

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  177. The Plain Mama English was a life saver. I don’t even want to know where I would be if I didn’t click on that link. You have inspired me to start a blog myself. Big hugs! I will forever be grateful!

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  179. I have no job no money because all of what my ex makes goes to the baby or bills. How can I get help with no income to spend on myself. I have the feelings from both lists and my daughter is almost 10 months. I feel like I’m drowning.

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  192. i am suffering and see no way out. i was a high functioning professional, recently married, new baby. i thought i was in the prime of my life. then i started getting panic attacks and severe depression/suicidal ideation (i think due in part to medications and side effects with emotional numbing, apathy, and SI) and have been in treatment for months with no sign of true improvement. i’ve lost all hope by this point. i don’t even know who i am.

    • Sy – I’m so sorry. Losing sense of who you are is absolutely terrifying. You are not alone. It can take time to improve from these illnesses and sometimes that entails working with several doctors or trying different medications until you find what works for you. Don’t lose hope, you will get better.

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  202. I don’t know I experience iwas stress depress since I gave birth to my son it was 2006 I don’t like noise when my kids they talking to much I was so mad and angry its easy to me to get angry and after half hour I’m so guilty idont know what I’m gonna do.

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    • I mean im about to lose it.. The noise, the whinning, the crying, noise noise noise. The attachment.. The clinging.. I cant breath.. I cant think.. I cant get anything done.. Things are always getting dirty… I hate dirty and unorganized…Feeling fat and unaccomplished worthless.. Like a terrible mother.. I cant get a moment of time to myself. Cant afford daycare.. Dad works is bread winning so when he gets home he’s intitled to his peace… They fo everywhen i go.. Im about to have a nental break down.. I find myself screaming and crying.. I also have ptsd.anxiety and depression…. Im just screwed.. I cant focus on school. I cant focus on my writing… I need help

    • Shanta – Depression can show up anytime, and some studies say it’s just as common 4 years after a child is born as it is right after birth. The bottom line is, becoming a mother is a tough, tough thing and kids are hard. No matter how old your child is, it’s important to reach out for help and talk to your doctor about treatments for depression. You will get better.

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  207. I had my son six weeks early. He is still in the hospital, his due date was April 1st. I adopted him to a great family, i was raped and am not ready to be a mother. I’ve been really moppey as my fiance says. I cannot eat without throwing up i have pre-eclampsia still from my pregnancy. I just don’t know if I’m depressed or what to do.

    • Hannah – Talk with your doctor. The symptoms you describe sound like they should be shared with a medical professional. Depression needs treatment too. Get yourself some help, you don’t have to keep feeling so awful.

  208. is it uncommon to have a dream that leads to anxiety or depression…..i had one when i was pregnant about 1 1/2 years ago— it happened when i was 6 months pregnant— and it was terrible.. in my dream a short old man came out of a black hallway, and said you may die in three years. i woke up and cried and cried, and it still over comes me sometimes, it was very scary! do i believe it or….

  209. I’m curious to know….I’m on the Smart Patients open forum for PPD and was wondering what people are referring to when they talk about IT’s (in reference to PP Anxiety). My guess has been Interrupting Thoughts. Thanks for your time,

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  212. My child is three now she was two when this happened to me could this be post depression anxiety what do I do to fix this

    • Hi Tasha, depression and anxiety are very common among mothers during their childbearing years. Help is available. A good place to start is reaching out to your doctor or to a therapist for help. You don’t have to keep feeling like this. You will get better.

  213. My daughter in law is hospitalized for postpartum in Georgia but no one seems to know what to. Where can I get a list of places in metro Atlanta that specializes in postpartum depression

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  218. thank you for this. spot on. we need to be vigilant–reaching out, helping mommas, and guiding them to care.

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  222. What if you have PPD and no support system because your family just thinks you’re crazy because of some other reason?

    • Momto8 — I’m sorry you feel you have no support system. Is there a friend or distant relative you can confide in? Even if your immediate family isn’t supporting you, you can still get help. Talk with a doctor or a therapist about how you are feeling. We understand. You are not alone.

  223. I think what you’ve written here is important. I had always heard of postpartum depression, but it’s important to emphasize that postpartum symptoms aren’t exclusively sadness. Feeling overwhelmed, enraged, irritable, etc. is crucial to recognize. I had a really great doctor, your OB can be helpful at times like these…

  224. I didn’t think I have postpartum depression. Just insensitive people telling me all the time that I have it even though I was the happiest I have ever been, a husband that can’t seem to understand that even I deserve sleep, and a slew of people who make it perfectly clear I am doing everything wrong

  225. Pingback: Guest post: Breastfeeding + postpartum psychosis, a highly unlikely love story ⋆ The Boob Geek

  226. my roommates gave birth to her first child two months again. She has become suspicious that i am taking something that may harm her baby which is totally baseless. I am wondering if she is suffering from postpartum depression? i am now being pissed off about some of the things she is doing. She started checking on me while i am in my bed room and she is also suspicious when i go to the bathroom. i am feeling being harassed. I am asking if that is the case i could understand her and try to help. Thank you

    • Fasa – It’s possible, but hard to know without hearing her whole story. I’d encourage you to ask her how she’s feeling and see if she might open up to you about new motherhood. You could also share some of your feelings with her and ask her how you can all get along better.

  227. this so perfectly describes my granddaughter and confirms my suspicion. but. can’t. seem. to get help for her and fear a bad outcome. This site helps me and I will stay on my mission to somehow.

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  232. Base on what ive read . suffering from postpartum depression :( do i need to consult to my doctor right now .. Im worried to my merrage life . i feel like im going crazy :(

  233. I just had a baby and i have been experiencing this symptoms.. Im scared to go to the Dr..What if i dont get any support from my family about this?what if this wont go away?

    • Nori,

      It may be scary to talk about feeling this way, but it is best to see your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms. You can get help and start to recover. Your doctor can talk to you about treatment options for your particular symptoms. Try to believe that seeking professional help will get you to a better place, and peace to you!

  234. I feek like everything i just read is whats happening to me… I just want to grab my newborn and run away from everyone I know. Be alone with no one to help me, but wanting the gelp. Its difficult to explain :'(

    • Blanca,

      It is hard to explain, you’re right. But it makes sense to those of us who have gone through it, or are going through it. You are certainly not alone. Please keep talking about it, and reach out to people you trust if you feel you need help. We all need help sometimes! Peace to you and yours…

  235. I feel like most of the stuff listed under PPD/anxiety, I am feeling, but my kids are 5 and 3 now. Would that be considered postpardem or would it just be depression/anxiety? I continuously have these episodes, and it’s becoming exhausting.. To the point that I do just want to “run away” and leave everything behind..

    • I’m sorry you’re struggling with this, and for what may have been a long time. Because we are not medical professionals, we can’t answer your question but I do want to encourage you to explore it further with your doctor or a medical health professional. Many women do begin to experience anxiety and depression symptoms postpartum and if not treated, these symptoms can continue. It’s best to talk it over with someone trained to help you explore it. You are worth it, Mama.

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