Postpartum Depression

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Quick GuidePostpartum Depression: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Postpartum Depression: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

How is postpartum depression diagnosed?

There is no one test that definitively indicates that someone has PPD. Therefore, health-care professionals diagnose this disorder by gathering comprehensive medical, family, and mental health history. Patients tend to benefit when the professional takes into account their client's entire life and background. This includes, but is not limited to, the person's gender, sexual orientation, cultural, religious, ethnic background, and socioeconomic status. The health care professional will also either perform a physical examination or request that the individual's primary care doctor perform one. The medical examination will usually include lab tests to evaluate the person's general health and as part of screening the individual for medical conditions that might contribute to mental health symptoms.

Postpartum depression must be distinguished from what is commonly called the "baby blues," which tend to occur in most new mothers. In the brief mood problem of baby blues, symptoms like crying, sadness, irritability, anxiety, and confusion can occur. In contrast to the symptoms of PPD, the symptoms of the baby blues tend to peak around the fourth day after delivery, resolve by the 10th day and do not tend to affect the individual's ability to function.

Postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric emergency that requires immediate intervention because of the danger that the sufferer might kill their infant or themselves. Postpartum psychosis usually begins within the first two weeks after delivery. Symptoms of this condition tend to involve extremely disorganized thinking, bizarre behavior, unusual hallucinations, and delusions. Postpartum psychosis is often a symptom of bipolar disorder, also called manic depression.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/23/2015

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