Is This Postpartum Depression or The ‘Baby Blues’?

By: Amy Charley

ThinkstockPhotos-523710937Actress Hayden Panettiere recently checked into a treatment center to combat postpartum depression, a condition she’s spoken openly about since the birth of her daughter in December 2014. Her brave choice to speak publicly brings attention to postpartum depression, which affects nearly 22 percent of women after giving birth.

“Postpartum depression is a significant public health problem given the profound impact of a mother’s depression on her child’s physical and emotional well-being,” says Dr. Priya Gopalan, chief of Psychiatry, Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. “Often times, it can be hard to detect because the symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to the typical ‘baby blues’ that often occur due to hormonal changes after birth. With postpartum depression, the lows are more profound and symptoms rarely go away without treatment.”

Baby Blues

Nearly four out of five women experience the ‘baby blues.’ While what causes postpartum blues is not known definitively, women go through a number of changes after giving birth. Physical and hormonal changes are normal and are to be expected. The ‘baby blues,’ while common, do not last long. For most women, baby blues include some mild sadness, tearfulness, and feeling more emotional than usual.

But if the feeling of sadness lasts more than a week after a baby is born, a woman should call her doctor or nurse. Baby blues is typically not associated with feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or thoughts to harm yourself or others.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is, by definition, more intense than the baby blues. It lasts longer and the lows are more profound. What sets postpartum depression apart is the severity and persistence of symptoms. If a new mom’s low mood persist or gets worse over time, she should seek help. While postpartum depression usually starts in the month after delivery, in some cases, postpartum depression can start one to two months after childbirth.

Signs of depression include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling depressed
  • Everything feels like an effort
  • Restless sleep
  • Feeling unhappy
  • Feeling lonely
  • People seem unfriendly
  • Do not enjoy life
  • Feeling sad
  • Cannot “get going”

Any new mother with thoughts of harming herself, her baby or others should  get help at once.


Without treatment, depression can last for many months and may have long-term consequences for both mother and baby. For anyone suffering from postpartum depression, the Behavioral Health Services team at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC is here to help. Counseling and other behavioral health services for women and their families are available from Magee, in partnership with Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. For more details or to make an appointment, call 412-641-1238.