What Types of Postpartum Depression Are There?

Postpartum Depression
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Many people assume that postpartum depression is one, definitive condition. The truth is that there are shades of gray. The types of postpartum depression run on a spectrum of severity, ranging from mild baby blues to postpartum major depression to postpartum psychosis.

Baby Blues

When we talk about "baby blues" we mean a short-term, milder type of postpartum depression.  The baby blues are experienced by 30 to 80% of all new mothers.

Symptoms include anxiety, crying, insomnia, tiredness, moodiness and sadness. Baby blues unusually begin 3 to 10 days after childbirth and end within two weeks.

Postpartum Major Depression

Unlike the baby blues, postpartum major depression -- experienced by about 10% of women who have given birth -- tends to develop three or more weeks after delivery. Mood symptoms are stronger and last longer.

Symptoms may include tearfulness, problems with concentration, difficulty making decisions, feelings of inadequacy, sadness, and suicidal thoughts. Physical symptoms similar to hypothyroidism -- including sensitivity to cold, slowed thinking, tiredness, dry skin, fluid retention, and constipation  -- may also be experienced.

Postpartum Psychosis

Sometimes called puerperal psychosis or postpartum psychotic depression, this type of postpartum depression will develop in 1 to 2 women in 1,000. Most cases will begin within the first two weeks after giving birth, although a second peak has been observed to occur one to three months after delivery.

Postpartum psychosis may be preceded by agitation, confusion, memory problems, irritability, worsening insomnia and anxiety.

Symptoms of postpartum psychosis include intrusive thoughts, delusions, hallucinations and inappropriate responses to or disinterest in one's child.

Postpartum psychosis symptoms may change rapidly, with periods of elevated mood being quickly followed by profound sadness or rage.

Periods of lucidity are common and not necessarily an indicator of recovery. Although recovery may occur abruptly, it is more common for postpartum psychosis to evolve into severe, prolonged depression.


Jacobson, James L. and Alan M. Jacobson. Psychiatric Secrets. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Hanley & Belfus, 2001.

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