The first several weeks following birth are referred to as the postpartum period. This is a time of both physical and psychological adjustment for each family member, and it is likely to be a time of intensified emotional highs and lows. The new baby affects the roles and interactions of all family members. The parents can experience an increased closeness to each other as well as some troublesome feelings. Both partners may want extra emotional support from each other, but each may have less than usual to give. The time and energy demands of caring for an infant can contribute to weariness and stress. Conflict about the division of household and child-care labor can become problematic in the early months and years of the child’s life (Cowan & Cowan, 1992). A good support system for the new parents can be immensely helpful. Understanding that these feelings are a common response to adjustments to the new baby may help new parents cope with the stresses involved.
Postpartum depression (PPD) affects 15% of mothers (Routh, 2000). Unlike the more common "baby blues"—tearfulness and mood swings lasting up to 10 days that about 75% of new mothers feel—PPD involves classic symptoms of depression, including insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, and hopelessness (Knudson-Martin & Silverstein, 2009). At its most extreme, women suffering from PPD lose interest in their babies or develop obsessive thoughts about harming themselves or their babies. Such reactions may be partly due to the sudden emotional, physical, and hormonal changes following birth. Sleep deprivation from waking many times in the night to care for the newborn also is stressful and diminishes emotional and physical reserves. Fortunately, PPD can be effectively treated (Beck, 2006). However, evidence demonstrates racial and ethnic disparities in rates of postpartum depression treatment. In a study of low – income women who received Medicaid funds for treatment, African American women and Latinas were less likely than White women to initiate treatment and continue care for PPD (Kozhimannil et al., 2011).