5 Early Signs of Postpartum Depression | What to look out for after bringing home baby

While the DSM only lists "postpartum depression", its lesser known that anxiety is actually more common especially since the pandemic. Because anxiety is rolled up under ppd many people don't recognize the signs. Care for yourself and loved ones by learning what to look for.

5 Early Signs of Postpartum Depression | What to look out for after bringing home baby

5 Early Signs of Postpartum Depression

By Trisha Goodall

"Undiagnosed and untreated Perinatal Mental Health disorders are a silent health crisis in the United States"

Postpartum depression and anxiety are significant, as the above quote from Postpartum Support International points out. Even more disturbing is the lack of awareness in our society about the impact, severity, and even what it looks like. When I experienced postpartum depression, I had no idea that the increase in anxiety was related.

Today, we're going to demystify and break down barriers to supporting parents experiencing mental health issues.

What are the 5 early signs of postpartum depression

  1. First of all, there are more than 5, but for the sake of something digestible here are 5 signs that someone may need help:Inability to sleep while baby sleeps - too much on your mind, or Jazzed up - going and going and going and doing everything you can to ensure babies safety.
  2. Obsessive or intrusive thoughts - you can’t stop picturing your babies head explode as you round the corner of the hallway, or you’re terrified of going into the babies room for contaminating the room.
  3. Difficulty bonding with baby
  4. Crying often, feeling sad, hopeless,
  5. You don’t feel right - you know yourself and you can’t pinpoint it, but something is not right. If a provider or receptionist says “It’s fine - just normal.”, then don’t accept that. Keep looking until someone listens to you.

This list is not comprehensive - which is why #5 is so important. It might not be on any list, but if you or your loved ones are concerned then it’s time to seek help for a PMAD. 

What is a PMAD??

Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (aka PMADs) are very common and have spiked since COVID. Most people assume that Postpartum Depression is the only danger and that it just looks like crying all the time or being sad.But, in fact, anxiety is actually more common. So why the confusion? Because according to the DSM, anxiety is simply a symptom of PPD and it’s not widely known enough. Even some medical providers and therapists aren’t aware!

Sarah Menkedick writes about several women who were brushed aside by healthcare providers, and in one case dealing with postpartum OCD, as "just normal motherhood". (Read more in Ordinary Insanity).

Society further confuses the matter with different terms "postpartum", "neonatal", "perinatal"…what?

What does “perinatal” mean? And can you have it if you're not a birthing person?

“Perinatal” refers to the time from pregnancy to up to one year after giving birth.Does this mean that only a birthing person can experience a PMAD? That is a giant, resounding No! Fathers & non-birthing partners have also experienced PMADs, as have adoptive, surrogate, and foster parents. While it is more common in a birthing person, it is not limited to birthing persons.

If you have a history of anxiety, depression, OCD, bipolar, or any other kind of mental illness let your provider know and also confirm that your provider is fully-informed on the risks. Setup a preventative appointment with a therapist with experience in PMADs.

Even without a history of these things, PMADs can still occur. It is not discriminatory and is not indicative of any kind of strength nor weakness. It just is something that happens to you or it doesn’t. While you can take steps to prevent it, the experience of PMADs is never the person’s fault.

Can you prevent postpartum depression or anxiety?

While we can never fully control whether or not a PMAD will occur, there are steps that can be taken to prevent PMADs. Some people believe that is because mothers in the US are not given adequate time and support to heal and thus some of these conditions are a result of an exorbitant amount of stress on the body and psyche.The following steps have been shown to reduce the occurrence of PMADs in parents:

  • Hiring a postpartum doula
  • Having community support
  • Having conversations with partner and loved ones ahead of time about the warning signs
  • Having plans in place for the parent(s) to get rest and meals
  • Being open about what you’re feeling and having a support network (i.e. therapist, physical therapist to address pain and recovery, mom support groups)


No matter what any blog says or doesn't say, help is possible for you. All PMADs are treatable and you can feel better. Some parents can be fully supported with an OB, a licensed therapist, or you may need a specialized provider. Whatever it is - you are worth it, you are valuable, and you are not alone.

Please see these additional resources as you need:

  • Perinatal OCD resources: https://iocdf.org/perinatal-ocd/
  • Mental Health support resources: https://www.2020mom.org/
  • Additional perinatal mental health support: https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/