Having a baby can be hard. On top of the expected changes, up to one in five people struggle with their mental health after having a baby.

What are the baby blues?

Most people have fatigue and emotional symptoms such as anxiety right after a baby is born. There are a lot of changes happening at this time and it takes time to adjust to the new routine. If you or your partner have any of these feelings within two weeks, it is probably the baby blues. During these two weeks, it is important to make sure you try to get sleep, eat three meals, and ask for help to care for the baby. If it goes on for more than two weeks, it could be a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD).

What are PMADs?

PMADs describe the many symptoms and conditions that people have before or after having a baby. They can range from depression to OCD to psychosis. You can learn more about PMADS and their symptoms here.

How do I reach out for help if I have a PMAD?

Start by telling someone who you are close to, like a loved one or a family member. If you can’t, there are lots of resources at Postpartum Support International. You can call or text “Help” to 1-800-944-4773 (#2 for Spanish) to talk to someone and get help. Other ways to find help include: support groups, talking to people one on one, getting help from your community (like church or a community organization), and/or talking to a clinician.

What treatments help?

Therapy and medications can both be helpful for most PMADs. It is important to know that if you have postpartum psychosis or bipolar disorder, you should get immediate medical care (go to the ER) and start medications. For any PMAD, sleep is a main part of treatment. We always say that sleep is medicine

What should family members know about PMADs?

  1. Don’t tell your loved one they shouldn’t feel like this. PMADs are real.
  2. Ask the person what they need help with because it might be different from what you think. It could be cooking, cleaning, or even giving them time to shower or take a walk.
  3. Remind your loved one that sleep is important. Take care of the baby at night if you can. 
  4. Encourage your loved one to have a plan for how to get help if they are alone.
  5. Share resources with your loved one and let them know that talking, therapy, friends and family, and medication can all help. 

You are not alone in this. It is OK to seek help. With help, you can feel better.

Please note: If you or a loved one are having a crisis related to maternal mental health, please know that you can call or text 988 or the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS in the U.S.

About the Author: Aparna Kumar is a Psychiatric Mental Health Practitioner (PMHNP) at Thomas Jefferson University and Director of the PMHNP program. She is also a proud Nerdy Girl, leading effective health messaging on social media.