Signs of Postpartum Mood Disorders

Postpartum depression and anxiety are much more common than many people realize. One in seven women will experience postpartum depression. It is one of the most common pregnancy “complications” experienced. 


Baby Blues Vs. Postpartum Depression



Are Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression the same?


“Baby blues”, a term used to describe the worry, sadness, and tiredness many women experience after having a baby. “Baby blues” symptoms typically resolve on their own within a few days.” (


Postpartum Depression. Depression doesn’t feel the same for everyone. What symptoms occur, how long they last, and how intense they may feel will be different for each person. 


PostPartum Anxiety


Approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety. Sometimes they experience anxiety alone, and sometimes they experience it in addition to depression (postpartum international). Like PPD, symptoms can and will vary by person. Some of the signs and symptoms of PPA include:


Worrying Constantly

Feeling that something bad is going to happen or Intrusive Thoughts

Racing thoughts

Disturbances of sleep and appetite

Inability to sit still

Physical symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea

Irritability or Rage 


Along with general anxiety, other forms of PPA can include Postpartum Panic Disorder and Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. These are more specific forms of anxiety. Postpartum Panic Disorder is a form of anxiety that can make you feel very nervous and has recurring panic attacks. During a panic attack, she may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, claustrophobia, dizziness, heart palpitations, and numbness and tingling in the extremities. Panic attacks seem to go in waves, but it is important to know that they will pass and will not hurt you. (PPI)


Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Postpartum International describes it as “The most misunderstood and misdiagnosed of the perinatal disorders. You do not have to be diagnosed with OCD to experience these common symptoms of perinatal anxiety. It is estimated that as many as 3-5% of new mothers and some new fathers will experience these symptoms. The repetitive, intrusive images and thoughts are very frightening and can feel like they come “out of the blue.” Research has shown that these images are anxious in nature, not delusional, and have a very low risk of being acted upon.


Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex


DMER (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex) is a wave of negative or even devastating emotion just prior to letdown. The breastfeeding mother experiences this surge of negative emotions about 30-90 seconds prior to her milk release when breastfeeding, pumping or with spontaneous MER. ( Some of the words mothers used to describe these feelings are: 


  • a hollow feeling in the stomach
  • anxiety
  • sadness
  • dread
  • introspectiveness
  • nervousness
  • anxiousness
  • emotional upset
  • angst or irritability
  • hopelessness and general negative emotions


DMER is newly recognized and much research needs to be done. Often some of the same techniques used to manage general anxiety are encouraged. Deep breathing, talking through it with a partner or friend, grounding, and other distraction methods are encouraged as treatment. If you are experiencing these feelings, reaching out to an IBCLC for support and an empathetic ear, can be a great help.


Please know that you do not have to suffer alone. With as many as 1 in 5 mothers experiencing some type of PPD or PPA, this affects so many of us. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.