Physical Symptoms of Postpartum Depression That Will Surprise You

Despite being considered a mental illness, there are several physical symptoms of postpartum depression that can also plague mothers.  Often, the physical symptoms are mistaken as a condition of something else, both by mothers themselves and by health care providers.

The physical symptoms of postpartum depression aren’t discussed as often as the mental or emotional ones.  Therefore, many mothers with postpartum depression report feeling like hypochondriacs and find themselves constantly googling their symptoms online to find out what is causing them to feel so physically ill.

It’s important to rule out anything else, but it’s just as important to make mothers aware that postpartum depression can cause physical pain.

Here is a breakdown of some of the physical symptoms of postpartum depression.

*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.  **Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.


Common Physical Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

There are a few physical symptoms of postpartum depression that are common knowledge and almost all sufferers will experience at some point.

Exhaustion and Fatigue – Many mothers will say they didn’t notice they were experiencing fatigue because, well… they’re moms.  And if you’re not exhausted 99% of the day, are you even a mother? But the exhaustion and fatigue caused by postpartum depression goes far beyond the normal tiredness that all mothers experience.

Try tracking how much sleep you’re getting each night.  If it’s a decent amount but you’re still exhausted all day, then you could be experiencing fatigue.

Appetite Changes – This is another one that is commonly missed by mothers.  We are often too busy taking care of the kids to eat or sometimes just forget.  And then we binge eat after the kids go to bed because we haven’t eaten anything all day.  Those aren’t appetite changes…

Appetite changes due to postpartum depression are much more extreme.  An aversion to food altogether is common, but so is non-stop eating.  And this all depends on our personalities.  For some people, it’s hard to eat when they feel sad or stressed.  For others, eating is comforting and makes them feel better.

One way to stay on top of the appetite changes is to watch for weight fluctuations.  A sudden and drastic increase or decrease in weight can signal that postpartum depression has taken a toll on a person’s appetite.

Sleep Problems – This is a physical symptom that can go either way.  Many women cannot sleep at all (insomnia) and others want to sleep all day long (hypersomnia).  This also depends on the individual personality but if a woman has anxiety as well as depression, they are more likely to experience insomnia.  Sleeping pills can help, but there are natural sleep options as well.

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Physical Symptoms Caused By Stress

In addition to the more common physical symptoms of postpartum depression, many women experience pain caused by stress.  Stress is a big trigger for symptoms of depression, and as long as stress is a factor in your life, you can expect to have constant mental and physical pain.

Back/Neck/Joint PainTension caused by stress puts a lot of extra pressure on the bones and joints in the body.  When stressed out we tend to tighten up, raise our shoulders, hunch our backs and hang our heads, which isn’t the way our bones and muscles are supposed to work.  In addition to tension-related pain, many sufferers of postpartum depression experience bodily pains due to the large amount of time spent in bed plus a lack of exercise.  Massage therapy or a low-impact exercise such as yoga can help to relieve some of the pain.

Headaches/Migraines – Chronic headaches and migraines are also a result of stress and the overall drop in healthy habits.  Without the right diet, exercise or fresh air intake, they are almost unavoidable.  Tension headaches caused by stress can be a regular occurrence.  Certain medications can also cause headaches (or withdrawals from medications)Essential oil blends that are specially developed for migraines or tension headaches are a better alternative to taking medication on a regular basis.

Nausea and Digestion ProblemsStress can have quite an impact on the digestive system.  That feeling of knots in the stomach is not just in the head – it’s literal.  Stress and anxiety can cause nausea and constipation or diarrhea.  A poor diet, different medications and a lack of exercise can also result in slower digestion.  It can take a while to get your digestive system back on track with everything going on, so it’s a good idea to supplement with a digestive enzyme and use essential oil blends for nausea.

Teeth Grinding/Jaw Pain – Stress, anxiety and insomnia can cause severe jaw pain (TMD) from teeth grinding at night.  Teeth grinding can also cause headaches and dental problems. Using a dental guard can help protect your teeth and reduce jaw pain from clenching and grinding while you sleep.

Chest PainAny type of chest pain should always be checked out by a doctor –  don’t automatically assume that your chest pain is a symptom of postpartum depression or anxiety.  However, if you’ve ruled out the chance of any other condition, it’s very possible that your chest pain is caused by stress from postpartum depression or anxiety.  Chest pain can be a sign of a panic attack, muscle atrophy, dehydration or malnutrition.

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Physical Symptoms Caused By Hormonal Imbalances

Hormonal imbalances can cause a lot of physical symptoms in women with postpartum depression.  It’s important to get your hormone levels checked and make sure that there isn’t another underlying problem that is causing your hormone levels to be out of balance (such as a thyroid problem).  Pregnancy and breastfeeding can cause significant changes in hormone levels.  It may take a long time after giving birth for the hormones to regulate, and during that time you can expect several different physical symptoms.

Hair Loss – postpartum hair loss is extremely common with the change of hormone levels after birth.  If you’re experiencing hair loss long after the postpartum period is over, then it could be a sign of a hormonal imbalance.  There are specially formulated hair growth supplements for women with hormonal imbalances that can help your hair stay healthy during the battle with postpartum depression.

Acne – Having hormones that are out of balance is like being a teenager all over again.  Adult acne is a symptom of sudden changes in hormone levels and is a common complaint of pregnant and postpartum women.  You may need to consider adding an oil free cleanser or blemish treatment to your self-care routine.

Dizziness/Lightheadedness – Changes in hormone levels can cause women to experience bouts of dizziness and lightheadedness.  This can also be a symptom of a poor diet and lack of fresh air caused by depression.

Menstrual Changes – This can be a difficult symptom to track for postpartum women.  It’s not unusual for women to experience irregular periods after giving birth, especially while breastfeeding.  But even exclusive breastfeeding isn’t a guarantee of avoiding periods and ovulation.

With a hormonal imbalance, women with postpartum depression may experience drastic changes in their menstrual cycle, such as painful periods or ovulation and severe PMS.  Specialty essential oil blends can help treat the symptoms of PMS naturally.  Alternatively, some may experience symptoms similar to menopause such as hot flashes, infertility, irregular or missed periods and spotting.

It’s still important to report these changes to  your doctor, though, as you could be suffering from something more severe – such as fibroids or endometriosis.  Regardless of what is causing the irregular menstrual cycles, there are natural supplements available to help regulate them.

Subscribing for a Blume box can make this symptom much easier to deal with.

DrynessDry skin, dry eyes and vaginal dryness are symptoms of an estrogen, progesterone or testosterone deficiency.  While not a big problem on their own, in combination with some of the other physical symptoms of postpartum depression, it can become a nuisance.

Reduced or non-existent sex drive low or fluctuating testosterone levels can result in a low libido for women with postpartum depression.  But even with balanced hormone levels, sex is normally the last thing on the mind of an exhausted and struggling mother.  There are different homeopathic libido boosters available and even the right combination of essential oils can help despite the imbalanced hormones.

Battling Endometriosis While Suffering from Postpartum Depression
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One of the most surprising physical symptoms of postpartum depression…

A Weakened Immune System

It’s surprising but also it’s not.  A woman with postpartum depression isn’t eating right, exercising or sleeping enough.  They’re unlikely to get out of the house very often so they’re deprived of fresh air and sunshine.  They wouldn’t be exposed to enough of the world’s bacteria to build up an immunity to it (even worse if they suffer from postpartum OCD).

It should actually be no surprise that a woman with postpartum depression will get sick more often due to a weakened immune system.  Being prone to illness can, in turn, increase a woman’s anxiety and tendency to believe that something else is wrong with them.

It can take months or even years before the signs of a weakened immune system start to show, and even longer to build it back up.  There are natural ways to boost your immune system despite all the side effects of postpartum depression.

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Mental illness can have an effect on all parts of a person’s life.  A lot of the time, the illness is invisible and therefore, women with postpartum depression fly under the radar because they aren’t “sick enough.”  In fact, many of the physical symptoms listed here are often blamed on something else, rather than recognized as an actual symptom of postpartum depression.  By treating the mental aspects of postpartum depression, which includes (but is not limited to) online therapy, eliminating stress, eating right and exercising – a lot of the physical symptoms will also get better.

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10 Things Mothers with Postpartum Depression Want You To Know

Postpartum depression, as common as it might be, is widely misunderstood.  No one knows for certain exactly why mothers get postpartum depression and many aren’t even aware of the symptoms.

If there was less stigma and more mothers felt comfortable enough to speak up about their postpartum depression, perhaps the rest of the world would know about it and find ways to help.

In an effort to help others understand more about postpartum depression – here’s a list of 10 things that mothers with postpartum depression want you to know.


A List of 10 Things a Mother with Postpartum Depression Wants You to Know

*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.  **Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.


1. We Are Not Bad Mothers

Mothers with postpartum depression are not prone to hurting their babies.  While there have been cases that ended in tragedy – those mothers were likely suffering from postpartum psychosis, which is much more serious.

We might be seen as “bad” mothers because we didn’t bond with our babies right away, or we seem withdrawn from them or avoid holding them.  These are common symptoms of postpartum depression but it does not mean that we want to harm our child or that we don’t love them as much.

If anything, postpartum depression makes us stronger mothers because we have to fight harder to build a mother-child relationship.

You don’t need to take our babies away from us or be concerned about leaving us alone with them.  If we come to you for help and admit what we are feeling – that makes us a better mother, not a bad one. 

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2. It’s Not In Our Head

Postpartum depression is not just a psychological issue – it’s physical pain, it’s chemical imbalances, it’s uncontrollable hormones.  It’s a total body experience and not just something we imagine.

Positive thinking alone will not get rid of postpartum depression.  It’s important to stay positive to help reduce stress which is a big trigger for symptoms, but there is so much more to it than that.

Many women suffer from disruptions in sleep and appetite, headaches and back pains from stress and tension, nausea and debilitating fatigue.  So the pain is never just “in our head.”

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3. Nothing We Did Caused This

Postpartum depression is NOT our fault.  We didn’t get it because of a traumatic labor or breastfeeding problems or because we didn’t have a good enough support system.

It’s natural to want to find an explanation for what we’re going through and it’s easy to look back on our pregnancies and deliveries and find something to blame for the mess.

While there are several different risk factors that can increase your chances of having postpartum depression, the truth is – even a women with the happiest of pregnancies, easiest of deliveries and biggest support system could still be diagnosed with postpartum depression.  It does not discriminate.

There are studies being conducted to try to determine the cause of postpartum depression but for now – it’s still a mystery as to why some women get it and others do not.

Running in Triangles Postpartum Depression Survival Guide
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4. There Is No Cure

There are plenty of treatment options and ways to control the symptoms but we will never be the same person we were before postpartum depression.

Anti-depressants, therapy, self-care, yoga and meditation, etc., are all important for helping with the symptoms but they will not make postpartum depression go away permanently.  Some women can control their symptoms better than others, but no matter what, we will all have to live with the darkness inside of us for the rest of our lives.

If we’re not careful about following our treatment plans, we could suffer a relapse.

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5. It Can Be Invisible

Just because we don’t seem depressed doesn’t mean we’re not suffering inside.  Postpartum depression can be an invisible disease, which means we don’t have a giant scar or walk with a limp but we are in just as much pain.

Mothers with postpartum depression have gotten very good at putting on a smile to hide the pain and avoid the awkward questions.

Thanks to the stigma around postpartum depression, many mothers won’t even admit to having it for fear of what the world will think of them.

Organizations like 2020Mom and The Blue Dot Project are helping to break down the stigma through campaigns like Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week but they will only be successful if mothers with postpartum depression are willing to let the world know that they exist.  

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6. It’s Not The Same As Postpartum Psychosis

Anytime I hear a story about a new mother taking her life and/or her child’s life, the question arises as to whether or not it’s postpartum psychosis.  While postpartum depression can cause mothers to feel suicidal, postpartum psychosis can cause hallucinations during which a mother isn’t even herself. They are two different diseases and psychosis is a severe medical emergency.

Postpartum psychosis leads a mother to have hallucinations and hear voices in their heads.  They are often a danger to themselves and those around them, including their children, because of their unpredictable behavior.  They are not aware of what they are doing, and if left untreated – can end in tragedy.

It’s important to be aware of the symptoms of postpartum psychosis and know the difference.  This article from Postpartum Progress does the best job at explaining it.

Here’s an article from Huffingtonpost with regards to the movie “Tully” portraying a woman diagnosed with postpartum depression when really, she suffers from postpartum psychosis.

What to Do When Postpartum Depression Makes You Suicidal .


7. Don’t Take Things Personally

Postpartum depression can manifest itself in different ways.  Fits of uncontrollable rage is a lesser known symptom and can cause a lot of strain on relationships.

When we are riding the emotional roller coaster that is postpartum depression, it’s easy to lose control and lash out.  But until our symptoms are under control with a proper treatment plan, it’s best not to take the things we say and do personally.

The urge to push people away and withdraw into ourselves is strong with postpartum depression, but that doesn’t mean it’s what we actually want.

In fact, a support system is something we need now more than ever.

9 Reasons Why Moms Don't Talk About Postpartum Depression
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8. It’s easier to talk to strangers

Please don’t feel offended if we don’t want to talk to you about what we’re going through.  It’s much easier to talk to strangers who have been through it before, such as a therapist or online support group.

They understand what we mean and won’t judge us.  We know you don’t mean to judge us, but unless you know what it feels like to be inside the head of a crazy person, you couldn’t possibly understand.

Some of the best “strangers” to talk to are available through the PSI Helpline (call or text!)

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9. We Need Your Help

Even if we don’t want to talk to you, we still need your help to get through this.  Postpartum depression is a tough fight and it’s even harder to fight alone.  There are so many ways that you can help us, but it’s very hard for us to tell you what they are.

The biggest way that you can help us is by trying to understand what we’re going through.  And even if you don’t understand, stand by us and support us no matter what.

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10. Please Don’t Abandon Us

Mothers with postpartum depression make for some of the worst company.  We’re weepy and emotional.  We rarely smile or laugh.  We’re tired all the time, or angry and annoyed.  We dodge your phone calls and cancel dinner plans.  We don’t blame you for not wanting to hang out with us…

Withdrawing from society is a major symptom of postpartum depression and it’s out of our control.

But we hope that, when we do finally feel better, you will still be there waiting for us on the other side of the darkness.

Gift ideas for the mother with postpartum depression
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10 Things Moms with Postpartum Depression Want You to Know
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