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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Postpartum Depression

The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that as many as 70-80 percent of new mothers may experience the “baby blues.” Postpartum mood changes may range in severity from brief, mild “baby blues” to the longer-lasting, deeper clinical conditions, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. Most postpartum emotional ups and downs are believed to result from natural hormonal changes that occur with pregnancy and childbirth. Hormonal levels typically return to normal -- and “baby blues” generally resolve -- within a week or two.

New mothers or their loved ones should seek help for postpartum depression if feelings of sadness and depression last longer than a week or two, are strong, or occur most of the time or for days in a row. Seek immediate help if a new mom has thoughts of harming herself or her child, feels like giving up, or feels that life is not worth living.

Feeling sleep-deprived or stressed can exaggerate postpartum mood shifts. New mothers should get plenty of rest, good nutrition, exercise, and support from a spouse or partner, family, and friends. Other advice to counter postpartum mood swings includes the following: ask for and accept help from others, set realistic expectations, let go of perfectionism, don’t try to “do it all,” and be sure to make a little time to relax, spend time with a partner or friends, or do something you enjoy.


Northwestern Memorial Hospital 24/7 Crisis Line: 1-312-926-8100

National Suicide Prevention 24/7 Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) and Web site: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Kristin Brooks Hope Center 24/7 Hopeline: 1-800-442-HOPE (4673) or 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) and Web site: http://hopeline.com/gethelpnow.html

Internet Resources

MedlinePlus: Postpartum Depression
Developed at the National Library of Medicine specifically for consumers, this site is a portal for reliable consumer health information about postpartum depression from both government-sponsored and privately developed sources.

Postpartum Support International
Founded in 1987, the purpose of Postpartum Support International is to increase awareness among public and professional communities about the emotional changes that women experience during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Information, support, and advocacy are all available at this site.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health: Depression During and After Pregnancy Fact Sheet
This site offers excellent basic information about the different forms of depression that may occur during and after pregnancy.

Postpartum Depression Alliance of Illinois
This site provides an excellent, consolidated online database of local programs and resources on postpartum depression for Illinois residents. Information about an annual conference, workshops, and new moms’ support groups is available here.


Transitions to Motherhood is a six-class, educationally based program featuring clinical experts who provide information on various topics such as calming techniques, newborn care, sleep, marriage and relationships, and coping. The program provides a forum for women to network and develop relationships with other new moms, learn practical ways to manage new motherhood, and share feelings and concerns.

Call 1-877-926-4664 to get more information or to enroll. Current listings for this and other Northwestern Memorial Hospital classes, programs, and support groups can be found at: http://ww2.nmh.org/listing/all


  • Overcoming postnatal depression. Williams C. 2009.
  • Beyond the blues: a guide to understanding and treating prenatal and postpartum depression. Bennett S. 2006.
  • Deeper shade of blue: a woman’s guide to recognizing and treating depression in her childbearing years. Nonacs R. 2006.
  • Down came the rain. Shields B. 2005.
  • Gale encyclopedia of mental health.  2008. Available in print at the Health Learning Center or electronically at http://www.nmh.org/nm/health+library+virtual+library .
  • Hillbilly gothic: a memoir of madness and motherhood. Martini A. 2006.
  • Mother-to-mother postpartum depression support book: real stories from women who lived through it and recovered. Poulin S. 2006.
  • Pregnancy blues: what every woman needs to know about depression during pregnancy. Misri SK. 2005.
  • What am I thinking?: having a baby after postpartum depression: what you’ve been through, what you have learned, and what you still need to know. Kleiman K. 2005.


  • Postpartum depression. 2010. 4 minutes. [Online resource from the National Institute of Mental Health.] http://www.nimh.nih.gov/media/video/postpartum-depression.shtml
  • Postpartum, from pregnant to parent. 2005. 36 minutes.
  • Descent into desperation. 2005. 57 min.

Journal Articles

  • “Group treatment for postpartum depression: a systematic review.”Archives of Women’s Mental Health. Goodman, JH. 14(4):277-93. Aug. 2011
  • “New insights into perinatal depression: pathogenesis and treatment during pregnancy and postpartum.” Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. Meltzer-Brody S. 13(1):89-100. 2011
  • “Postpartum depression: what we know.” O’Hara MW. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 65(12): 1258-69. Dec. 2009.
  • “Antidepressant prevention of postnatal depression.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Howard L. 2005. CD004363.
  • “Treating postpartum depression: a review of the literature.” Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health. Daley AJ. January–February 2007. 52(1): 56–62.
  • “Suffer no more in silence: challenging the myths of women’s mental health in childbearing.” International Journal of Psychiatric Nursing Research. January 2007. 12(2): 1429–1438.

Contact Us

For more information, please contact the Alberto Culver Health Learning Center at 312-926-5465.

Last UpdateNovember 2, 2012