20 signs of postpartum depression– baby blues or something more?

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If you are a new parent, you might be wondering if what you’re feeling might be signs of postpartum depression or if you’re going through some of the typical emotional growing pains that new parents face.

I say–“When in doubt, check it out!

dandelion2As with most things, there’s a range of how people feel and cope after having a baby.  Having a child is a life altering event, and the emotional aftermath can be intense.

Signs of postpartum depression are quite varied, and some are even a little surprising to some people (see #12).

As you look over the list below, pay attention to how many items fit your experience.  Consider, too, how intense each one is, how long it has lasted, and how they converge to impact your quality of life overall.

20 signs of postpartum depression

1.) Hopelessness.  It’s hard to imagine that things will ever get better, even though people keep saying that it will.  Things feel endless and unendurable.

You may feel stuck or trapped by motherhood.

2.) Low mood.  You feel depressed or down, maybe even when things are running smoothly.  You find you’re crying most days, or just stuck in the haze of a bad feeling that rarely seems to lift.

You don’t feel like there’s anything to look forward to or celebrate, or the milestones and holidays that you thought you’d enjoy just seem to come and go.

3.) Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy.  Also known as “anhedonia”– this is one of the common signs of postpartum depression.  This can be a hard one to judge– most new parents don’t have the time or bandwidth for leisure activities or hobbies.

The question is:  if you could find a whole afternoon or evening to yourself and napping was not an option, would it be fun to dabble or dive back into an old hobby, project, or pastime?  Or does the notion just make you feel tired and bored?

winter tree4.) Fatigue, sleep disturbance, & low energy.  This is another one that’s hard to get a read on, since sleep deprivation is so common for new parents.

If you are able to stock up on some extra, unbroken sleep for a night or three, are you still feeling bone tired afterward?

Or if you are getting good sleep, is fatigue still following you throughout your day?  Do you try to sleep and can’t?


5.) Feelings of worthlessness.  Do you feel like almost anyone would do a better job of parenting your child than you?

It’s normal to have occasional moments of self-doubt from time to time as a new parent, but if you have persistent feelings of being incompetent, less than, or worthless, take note:  it might be one of the signs of postpartum depression.

6.) Indecision.  Does making simple choices feel like a chore?  Do your eyes glaze over at the sight of the pantry and you walk away because you’re unable to choose a snack?  If small, everyday choices feel big or paralyzing, pay attention.

soup7.) Lack of motivation.  Is it really hard to get up and go?  Do you have a mental list of to-do’s that just keeps piling up, but when the opportunity comes along to do anything about them you can’t be bothered or find yourself disappearing into Facebook?

8.)  Change in appetite.  Is your appetite nowhere to be found?  Or, are you turning to food as one of the few comforting things in life you can control right now?

9.)  Feelings of guilt.  You feel guilty that you aren’t taking enough pictures of your child.  You feel guilty that you don’t take your baby on more outings to parks and play dates.  You feel guilty that your toddler isn’t getting enough attention.  You feel guilty that your sex life with your partner is non-existent.  You feel guilty that you haven’t lost the baby weight.  You feel guilty that you miss your old life.  You feel guilty because you sometimes second-guess your decision to have a baby.   You feel guilty about being depressed.  And so on…

10.) Overwhelm.  Small tasks feel overwhelming, big ones feel impossible.  You used to have a handle on things, and now it feels like everything is out of control and going to pieces.

11.)  Lack of bond with baby.  You may feel a lack of a bond with your baby.  They may feel foreign to you, like a stranger, or you may feel irritated, resentful, or angry with them, or you may feel distant, indifferent, or closed off.

This by itself is not necessarily one of the signs of postpartum depression– it can take time for the bond to develop– but it can cause new moms to feel badly about themselves because they may think there is something wrong with them (see #9– guilt.)

burn out12.)  Irritability & rage.  This can run from bouts of crankiness and irritability to full blown rage that can show up suddenly.

You may feel like you have a chronic short fuse.  Suggestions and offers of help may feel like criticism.

13.)  Hollow & empty.  Depression isn’t always about tearfulness and sadness.  Sometimes it shows up as a hollow, empty feeling.

You may feel as though you’re just going through the motions.  Things may feel purposeless or pointless.

14.)  Lack of concentration.  During quiet, peaceful moments, is it still hard to gather your thoughts or focus on tasks?

15.)  Isolation & withdrawal.  Every parents feels isolated from time to time in the early weeks and months of parenthood.  But, one of the signs of postpartum depression is noticing that you’ve intentionally or passively withdrawn from family or friends.  You make plans to go out and don’t keep them, or you just stop making plans altogether and make excuses instead.

You rarely leave the house, you rarely have visitors, and this goes on for weeks or months at a time.  Over time, people may stop calling to check up on you.

Isolated16.)  Worry that the baby can tell how you’re feeling.  You might worry that your depression might rub off on your baby or that they can somehow tell how sad you are.

17.)   Concealing how bad it is.  You hide how bad things are because you feel ashamed, or you’re worried you’ll be judged or “I told you so”-ed, or because you’re used to getting through things on your own and you’re waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel.

You might hide how bad it is because you worry that others will think you’re a danger to your child.

18.)  Escape fantasies.  You have fantasies of running away and never coming back.

19.)  Shame.  After being told most of your life that motherhood is the best, most amazing time in a woman’s life, you may feel tremendous shame that your experience isn’t “measuring up.”  You may feel like you’re failing as a mother or father.

You might even feel that there’s something deeply wrong with you.  (Not true, but it can feel that way.)

20.) Thoughts of suicide.  You may be so depressed that you think of ending your life.  You might feel that your baby would be better off without you.  You may wonder what it would be like if you weren’t around anymore.  Or you may see no way out and have begun to develop a plan about how you would kill yourself.  This is one of the most dangerous signs of postpartum depression, and can be one of the hardest to talk about.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, please reach out to someone you trust, or call a crisis hotline.  (You can call anonymously if you are concerned about your privacy.)

Putting the pieces together

HeartThere are a lot of items on this list.  When looking it over, consider your level of habits and functioning before baby.  If getting motivated or concentration has always been a problem for you, it may not be one of the signs of postpartum depression necessarily.

Look for long-standing patterns—we all have “off” days sometimes.  Do some of these experiences feel true much of the time?  Most of the time? 

Has it lasted at least a couple of weeks beyond the first two weeks postpartum?

If you’re wondering whether you’re struggling with postpartum depression, something’s probably going on.  

Whether it’s a full-blown episode of depression or not, it’s concerning you enough that you ran a search online to find this post.  (I’m glad you did, by the way.)

So, whether the label of postpartum depression fits, it’s probably safe to say that you could use some support.  Speak with someone you trust about what you’re going through.  Tell them it’s important.

You matter.  Things can get better!

Take steps to get some support– there’s no need to go it alone.

Thanks for reading,



As always, knowing which changes to make isn’t the hardest part of change.  It’s actually doing it, and sustaining those changes over time, in spite of the resistance and backlash that may come.

I offer therapy people pleasers & counseling for new moms in Austin, Texas.  So, if you’re in Austin, Texas, and you’re looking for a counselor who helps people-pleasers & new moms, drop me a line.  I offer therapy for postpartum depression in Austin, as well as counseling for birth trauma.  I offer free, half hour consultations in person at the office, and I’d be glad to set one up for you.  Babies and nursing moms are welcome in my practice.

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