UPMC Expert Shares How to Identify Symptoms of Post-Partum Depression 

By: Sierra Lomax 

Post-partum depression (PPD) is a medical condition associated with childbirth that typically comes from hormonal changes after having a baby. According to the Office on Women’s Health, 1 in 7 new moms will experience post-partum depression.  

Since Mother’s Day is this month, we spoke with Dr. Priya Gopalan, MD, chief of psychiatry at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital about the symptoms of PPD and how we can support people who are battling the “baby blues.” 

Dr. Priya Gopalan

Is post-partum depression a newer medical condition?  

“Postpartum depression is not a newer condition. References to PPD have been made far back to 460 BC by Hippocrates and in ancient Eastern practices like yoga and Ayurveda. Awareness of PPD has certainly increased over time, which is a good thing. Even a decade or so ago, PPD was not discussed openly due to stigma and lack of awareness.” 

What are the symptoms of PPD? 

“Symptoms include low mood, hopelessness, lack of bonding with baby, changes to motivation or interest, sleep, and appetite changes among others. More severe PPD symptoms can include thoughts to hurt oneself or others.  

Is there a demographic of people who are at a higher risk of developing PPD? 

“All individuals who give birth are at risk of PPD, but people of color and LGBTQ+ communities are at higher risk. Other known risk factors include those with financial and food insecurity as well as those who have had obstetrical complications, traumatic deliveries, a history of depression or anxiety, poor social support, or a history of trauma.” 

What are some ways to support new moms who are battling post-partum?  

“The village of support is essential. Don’t assume that everyone should be happy because they had a baby. Ask openly about depression and anxiety and allow them to get to therapy appointments or whatever is needed for their mental health. And of course, know the local crisis services in your area in case of emergencies.” 

How is UPMC helping to identify symptoms of PPD? 

Magee-Womens Hospital and Western Behavioral Health (i.e., Magee Behavioral Health and Western Wellness) have partnered for a widescale screening initiative in Allegheny County and Western PA for multi-time point screening. We also have programs for intensive outpatient treatment (the “NEST IOP”) for more severe perinatal depression and anxiety and offer brexanolone, the first FDA approved medication specifically for PPD.” 

This Mother’s Day, remember to check in with new moms and provide support when they share their experiences. If you know someone who is experiencing symptoms of post-partum depression, please visit UPMC.com/postpartum-depression.