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Pregnancy & Postpartum Depression

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 Funding for the Postpartum Depression Support Line is Provided by
First 5 Of San Luis Obispo County

In Santa Barbara/Santa Maria help is available at Postpartum Education for Parents (PEP) Warmline 805-564-3888.

According to a July 2018 Data Brief (PDF)  from the California Department of Public Health’s Maternal and Infant Health Assessment (MIHA) survey one in five California women who recently gave birth experience symptoms of depression during or after pregnancy.

All women are at risk for symptoms of perinatal depression; however, Black or Latina women, women who have low incomes or those who have experienced hardships in their childhood or during pregnancy are at heightened risk of having symptoms of depression. Depression during pregnancy is likely to lead to depression after the baby is born and is associated with serious risks to the mother and infant. Though not all women with symptoms of depression will be diagnosed with clinical depression, screening and appropriate care should be provided during prenatal care.

Postpartum Depression can be mild or severe. All women suffering from some level of Postpartum Depression need help and support. The degrees of severity of Postpartum Depression are discussed below.

The Baby Blues
  • The “baby blues” is a mild, temporary condition experienced by as many as 80% of new mothers within the first few days after childbirth. In spite of careful planning, the sense of responsibility and the reality of caring for a new baby does not really hit most parents until the first w days
    at home.
  • Due to a sudden drop in hormones, a woman may feel weepy, exhausted, anxious, or tense. If these feelings seem overwhelming, or continue past the first two weeks, a woman should seek help from a caring professional.
What can you do to ease the baby blues?

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  • SLEEP – Take time out for naps. Sleep when given the opportunity.
  • EAT – Have small, nutritious, and easy to prepare meals throughout the day.
  • SUPPORT – Talk with non-judgmental friends or family who allow you to express your feelings. Ask for help, accept help. Let someone else do the cooking and cleaning.
Postpartum Depression
  • True postpartum depression is different from the baby blues. One in every six women experiences postpartum depression.
There are many factors that can contribute, including:
  • hormonal changes after birth
  • sleep deprivation
  • a difficult birth
  • a fussy baby
  • a history of depression
  • a history of physical or emotional abuse
  • a poor support system or a difficult relationship.
Symptoms may include:
  • feeling sad day after day
  • no energy to care for self or baby
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • crying for no apparent reason
  • anxiety, frightening thoughts or fantasies
  • eating problems
  • feeling that something is not right

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  • May occur during pregnancy, immediately after birth or many months later. The longer a depression goes undiagnosed and untreated, the more impact it has on the woman and her family. Postpartum depression often leaves women feeling ashamed, isolated and with overwhelming feelings of guilt.
  • Is a common symptom among all postpartum disorders. Specific anxiety disorders can develop or worsen after childbirth.
Panic disorders
  • May include sudden increase in anxiety, palpitations and chest pains, hot or cold flashes, difficulty breathing, shaking, dizziness, or fear of losing control or going crazy.
Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
  • May include strong physical sensation (butterflies), repetitive, intrusive or repulsive thoughts, thoughts of harming self or baby, avoiding the baby, compulsive behaviors such as hand washing, checking and rechecking, counting or touching, and housecleaning.
  • Anti-depressant medications often help with the symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety disorders.
Postpartum Psychosis
  • One to two of every thousand women will experience a more serious disorder know as postpartum psychosis. Symptoms include: severe or rapid mood swings, agitation or hyperactivity, irrational thoughts, incoherent statements, hallucinations, inability to care for self or baby, thoughts of harming self or baby, losing touch with reality and delirium or mania.
  • The mother’s condition can change rapidly. One moment things seem normal, and the next moment the mother is not acting like herself. Postpartum psychosis is truly an emergency and requires immediate care


Some women with postpartum emotional disorders recover without incident. Many others need professional help. Postpartum emotional problems are physical and real. A woman can not “pull herself out of it” any more than she can pull herself out of a heart attack.

A woman experiencing any of the symptoms can call our Support Line 805-541-3367 for free confidential information and referrals. All the symptoms, from the mildest to the most severe are temporary and treatable. Treatment varies, depending on the severity of the symptoms. Learn more at http://postpartumwellness.org.