Robert Kennedy, Kelley Suttenfield

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In This Article

What Is Postpartum Depression?

For most people the birth of a baby is a special time of joy and excitement, but it can also be a time when women are susceptible to a clinical depression. This presents a whole new set of challenges that a new mother has to contend with in addition to caring for her newborn and herself. A depression that occurs after the birth of a baby is called a "postpartum" depression (PPD).

Moline and colleagues[1] describe 2 main kinds of PPD: (1) postpartum or maternity "blues," a mild mood problem of short duration and (2) postpartum major depression, a severe and potentially life-threatening illness. Nonacs[2] adds a third category to postpartum disorders -- postpartum psychosis. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSMIV-TR) delineates "postpartum" as a "modifier" or addition to other diagnoses. For example, a postpartum diagnosis could be described as major depression with postpartum onset, or bipolar I disorder with postpartum onset, or brief psychotic disorder with postpartum onset. Postpartum "blues" is not an official diagnostic entity but it is commonly seen by practitioners.

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