10 Signs You Might Have Postpartum Depression or Anxiety

Learn to recognize the symptoms of PPD and seek support for yourself or a loved one experiencing the challenges of the postpartum period.
Postpartum depression

You’ve probably heard quite a lot about postpartum depression (PPD), a condition that affects as many as 20 percent of new mothers and is marked by persistent sadness, mood swings, loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, lack of energy, sleep problems and more. 

There’s also another perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) that’s less talked about, but equally common: it’s called postpartum anxiety (PPA). PMADs are mental health conditions that develop during pregnancy or the postpartum period. They are also referred to as maternal mental health conditions. 

It is estimated that around 10 to 15 percent of postpartum mothers experience symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, these numbers may be higher, since many new mothers may never report their symptoms. Knowing the signs and symptoms of these conditions is important since recognizing a problem is the first step toward getting better.

Lead in: This article will cover the following:

  • The signs of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety
  • The difference between postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety
  • What to do if you’re suffering from postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety

Signs of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety

Women who experience postpartum depression and anxiety experience certain symptoms. These symptoms can be thoughts, feelings or behaviors that negatively impact their life. They can make it challenging to care for themselves and their babies and to function in different areas of their lives.

It’s important to note that experiencing these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. If you notice any of these signs in yourself, it’s important to speak with a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or therapist. They can determine if you have a mental health condition after conducting a thorough evaluation.

Here are 10 signs that could indicate that you have postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety: 

1. You feel sad or moody often

A sad mood is the hallmark feature of postpartum depression. Women with postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety feel sad most days, nearly all day, for at least two weeks. Other women may find that their moods shift from high to low. When it comes to postpartum depression though, the highs are not very high. If a woman is experiencing extreme mood changes along with other symptoms like hallucinations, paranoid thoughts, and an inability to sleep, then this may indicate postpartum psychosis, a serious mental health condition that requires emergency hospitalization.

2. Your brain won’t stop going

While sadness is the primary symptom of postpartum depression, the key feature of postpartum anxiety is a sense of worry that feels outside of your control. If you have postpartum anxiety, then your thoughts may feel like they never stop or your brain won’t shut off.

3. You experience intrusive thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts, ideas, or images that are very distressing to a person. They are incredibly common among postpartum women. Intrusive thoughts can vary from person to person, but they often involve something bad or dangerous happening to the baby. Some women experience upsetting images of hurting their babies. While this is very distressing, women with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety have no intention of acting on these thoughts. 

4. It’s hard to focus or make decisions

Both postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety can affect your cognitive abilities. If you have either of these conditions, you may find it difficult to pay attention to important things and to make decisions. With postpartum anxiety, you may overthink decisions to the point that you can’t take action.

5. You don’t enjoy things as much

Another common symptom of postpartum depression is a lack of interest in things that you used to enjoy. You may find that things you used to enjoy are no longer as pleasurable. You may see no point in spending time on hobbies or socializing with loved ones. Life can feel dull most of the time. 

6. You can’t sleep at night

Both postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety can cause changes to your sleeping habits. You may find yourself having difficulty falling and staying asleep or notice that you are sleeping much more than usual. If you have anxiety, your brain may feel like it won’t shut off at night, making it nearly impossible to rest.

7. Every little thing bothers you

You may find yourself feeling more irritable than usual. Things that would normally roll off your back may feel like a bigger deal. For some women, irritability could turn into anger and even postpartum rage. 

8. You feel like a bad mom

Women with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are usually very hard on themselves. They may criticize everything that they do and judge themselves harshly. They may even tell themselves “I’m a bad mom for feeling this way.” This can become a vicious cycle that worsens their depression and anxiety.

9. You’re having trouble bonding with your baby

Emotional struggles can make it harder to bond with your baby. You may feel disconnected and even question if your baby loves you. It’s important to note that many women experience a closer relationship with their babies after seeking treatment.

10. You’ve thought about death

In severe cases of postpartum depression, mothers may experience suicidal thoughts. These thoughts can range from passive thoughts of wanting to die to having an active plan. In either case, suicidal thoughts are a serious cause for concern and require emergency help. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

What is the difference between postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety?

Postpartum depression and anxiety are both perinatal mental health disorders. They often occur together. Research suggests that around 75 percent of women with postpartum anxiety also have postpartum depression. 

While postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety have many overlapping symptoms, including difficulty concentrating, lack of energy, and changes in sleeping patterns, they are different conditions. 

Here are the primary ways that they differ:

  • Postpartum depression is a mood disorder, while postpartum anxiety is an anxiety disorder. The primary symptom of postpartum depression is a low mood or changes in mood, while the primary symptom of postpartum anxiety is a sense of uncontrollable worry.
  • Women with postpartum anxiety may also experience panic attacks, which are intense episodes of extreme anxiety. Panic attacks can also cause physical sensations like a sense of choking, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. These attacks can feel like they come out of nowhere and can lead to a fear of leaving home or going anywhere she thinks she may have an attack.
  • Suicidal thoughts are a serious symptom of postpartum depression, not postpartum anxiety. Mothers with postpartum anxiety may have intrusive thoughts about death, but they don’t want to end their life.

What to do if you’re suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety

If you suspect that you may have postpartum anxiety or depression, or another perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, you should speak with a mental health professional. They can evaluate your symptoms and recommend a treatment plan. Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are treatable conditions and can improve greatly with the proper help.

Therapy is the recommended treatment for both postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (ITP) are two types of therapy that are effective in treating postpartum depression. When it comes to postpartum anxiety, CBT is effective and often used. Therapy works by helping you gain better control of your thoughts and feelings and learning tools to help you cope with the transition to motherhood.

Women experiencing postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety may benefit from individual, group, or couples therapy. Individual therapy allows you to meet with a therapist alone. The entire focus is on you, which can allow you to get to the root of your struggles. Support groups can also be beneficial because they allow you to connect with other women who are experiencing similar feelings. Finally, couples therapy can be helpful if both partners are having a hard time navigating parenthood and communicating effectively with one another.

Some women may also benefit from antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications in addition to therapy. This decision should be made carefully with the help of a psychiatric provider who works with postpartum women. A psychiatric provider can help you consider the pros and cons of this decision and determine if medications are right for you.

To get help, you will want to find a treatment provider who has experience working with new mothers. You may want to ask your OB/GYN or midwife for a referral. You can also call your health insurance company for a list of providers and request providers who work with postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. You can also search for a mental health practice that specializes in treating these conditions.

Postpartum depression and anxiety can cause a range of symptoms, including mood swings, difficulty bonding with your baby, and sleep disturbances.  If you suspect that you are showing signs of either, you should speak with a mental health professional who is trained in this area. They can determine the best course of action to help you recover. You deserve to feel better, so don’t delay getting help.


  • Dr. Emily Guarnotta

    Dr. Emily Guarnotta is a licensed psychologist and perinatal mental health specialist (PMH-C). She has works with clients experiencing a range of maternal mental health concerns, including infertility, postpartum depression and anxiety, and miscarriage. She is also the co-founder of Phoenix Health, an online practice that specializes in therapy for maternal mental health conditions. When she's not working, you can find her enjoying time with her family, traveling, and staying active. Follow Dr. Guarnotta on Instagram and visit her website

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