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Are you a new mother who feels like crying all the time during what you expected to be a happy time? You are likely wondering if you have postpartum depression, and that could be true — but excessive crying has other possible causes, too.

Are you up at 3 in the morning with a newborn who has been fed, whose diaper has been changed, and who has a normal body temperature, and who still can't seem to stop crying? It's no surprise if you'll start to feel like crying yourself, under the circumstances! Research even shows that mothers, who experience a surge in oxytocin (or "love hormone") levels after they give birth, are practically hard-wired to respond to infant cries [1] — and of course, being unable to stop your tiny human from emitting a heart-wrenching, high-pitched sound while you're sleep deprived is going to mess with your mental state. 

Being a new mother is hard. Bouts of crying will happen. 

 

If you find yourself crying constantly, however, if your mood is casting a dark shadow over the joys of new motherhood that you were expecting, it's not strange that you are starting to wonder if there is something wrong with you. Is uncontrollable crying one of the signs of postpartum depression?

 

Like other forms of depression, postpartum depression — which typically arises within four weeks of giving birth but can also have a later onset — exists on a continuum, with symptoms ranging from unpleasant but mild enough to still be fully functional to debilitating [2]. 

The Baby Blues: The Most Common Cause Of Postpartum Crying

The so-called Baby Blues, which are estimated to affect between 50 and 70 percent of all new mothers [3], are the mildest form of postpartum depression. These Baby Blues typically rear their head within three or four days after you give birth, and are characterized by poor concentration, fatigue, insomnia, and emotional symptoms that include anxiety, feeling low, and yes, crying

 

The good news is that the Baby Blues clear up all by themselves, usually within the first two weeks postpartum, as you get used to life with your new baby, your hormonal cocktail begins to normalize, and you get some sleep.

 

The Baby Blues don't require therapy or antidepressant treatment, just a good support network and some time. 

When The Crying Doesn't Stop, It's Time To Investigate Full-Blown Postpartum Depression

Are you still feeling weepy weeks after your baby was born, suffering from a low mood most of the time on most days? In this case, you may be suffering from a more serious mood disorder. Crying all the time is certainly one of the tell-tale signs of postpartum depression. To complete the diagnostic picture, here are the other postpartum depression signs [4] in brief:

  • A depressed mood — feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, anger, irritability, a lack of concentration and motivation, and emotional numbness, which in turn lead to crying spells. 
  • Fatigue, low energy, and either insomnia or hypersomnia — excessive sleeping.
  • Fear that you are not a good mother, thoughts about death (actively suicidal thoughts after having a baby are possible, but not necessary to qualify for a diagnosis), and thoughts about harming your baby are all possible. 

Should these symptoms sound familiar, know that you are not alone: between 10 and 20 percent of new mothers will suffer from postpartum depression, research shows [5], and help is available. Unlike the Baby Blues, however, postpartum depression does not simply clear up by itself, and mothers who think they may be affected should not be ashamed to seek treatment.

Postpartum depression can often be overcome through therapy alone, and a combination of talk therapy and antidepressants is effective for those who need additional help to rise beyond their depression [6]. 

Excessive Crying As The Result Of Conditions That Present Similarly To Postpartum Depression

With postpartum depression now being a commonly discussed condition, new mothers who feel like crying all the time may quickly conclude that they already know what's going on with them.

 

Both they and their doctors should be aware of possible misdiagnoses, however: several medical conditions mimic postpartum depression symptoms, and missing out on a correct diagnosis can cause these conditions to remain untreated. 

 

Conditions that can present similarly to postpartum depression, including possible crying spells, include:

  • Transient hypothyroidism (a low thyroid), which is a common problem during pregnancy and the postpartum period [7].
  • Iron deficiency anemia [8]. 
  • Hormone disorders. 

If you are an outsider looking in, you should likewise note that the effects of domestic violence can, in new mothers, present similarly to the symptoms of postpartum depression. 

What Should You Do If You Can't Stop Crying After Having A Baby?

Excessive crying itself is merely a symptom of underlying emotions and experiences, such as sadness, fear, and anxiety. When a new mother experiences these feelings, she may simply be overwhelmed and tired. An effective social support network — people who are willing and able to help you with the "daily drag" — and time are often all it takes for this unpleasant stage to pass.

 

Where a low mood overshadows the majority of the day nearly every day, and it doesn't get better within two weeks, it is a clear sign that you need additional help and are likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for depression. 

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