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The Difference Between Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety

Young unemotional mother holding crying newborn in her arms. Woman in postpartum depression has no strenght to calm down her crying baby. Lonely exhausted mother at home.

Research shows that 70% of new moms experience significant changes in mood after giving birth. A woman can experience a number of changes postpartum. After giving birth, estrogen and progesterone levels change, and hormonal changes can be a direct link to mood changes. Feelings of worry, sadness, and anxiety can be common, but it’s important for new moms to know how to identify their feelings and whether it may be postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression.

Postpartum Anxiety

Postpartum anxiety can present itself through many different symptoms, but it should go away after a few weeks of giving birth. The rapid change in hormone levels can trigger this anxiety response. Postpartum anxiety symptoms might include

  • Feelings of anxiety and a desire to run away that decreases with reassurance and the elimination of a challenging situation
  • Temporary body aches
  • Temporary moments of sadness, anger, disappointment, irritability or loss of concentration
  • Sleeplessness or fatigue that comes from a changing sleep schedule
  • Uncertainty about the requirements of motherhood without losing the ability to look to the future
  • Feelings of isolation

Postpartum Depression

Although postpartum depression can show similar symptoms to postpartum anxiety, these symptoms are more extreme and last for a longer time frame. Postpartum depression symptoms include: 

According to the Mayo Clinic, postpartum depression symptoms include:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear that you’re not a good mother
  • Hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
  • Restlessness
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

When to Seek Help

If you are experiencing any of these postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression symptoms after giving birth, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider to communicate your feelings and seek help. Contact your midwife if the signs or symptoms: 

  • Get worse
  • Don’t ease up after two weeks
  • Make it difficult to care for your baby or complete everyday tasks
  • Include harmful thoughts

Talk to A Midwife

As nurse-midwives,  City of Oaks Midwifery is here to help with every aspect of a woman’s pregnancy and birth, including caring for the mother’s mental health. Midwives are there to support a woman’s emotional health and wellbeing throughout every aspect of pregnancy.

From the beginning, we will be there to support you and answer your questions to ensure your mental health is a priority. If you have any questions about mental health during or after pregnancy, we are here to help. Call (919) 351-8253 to make an appointment at our Raleigh, NC midwifery practice.

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