CC (chief complaint): “I feel sad and hopeless.”

HPI: R.T. is a 26-year-old White female who came to the psychiatric clinic accompanied by her male partner with complaints of feeling sad and hopeless. The feelings began about four weeks after delivering her firstborn son 14 weeks ago. She first thought that the sad feelings were the pregnancy blues that she had seen her sister experience, but her partner got worried when the sadness persisted and worsened over time. The client’s partner mentioned that R.T. has had intense sadness and despair in the past six weeks. She is tearful most of the day and does not find take pleasure in the activities she enjoyed before delivery. The partner also mentioned that the client has uncontrollable worries about her baby’s health and well-being. R.T. reported having sleeping difficulties and usually has frequent nighttime awakening that leaves her feeling tired during the day. She attributes the sleeping difficulties to being frequently woken up by the baby and having to wake up frequently to breastfeed him. Furthermore, she attributed the fatigue to having no one to help her with the baby since her partner is usually working during the day and comes late in the evening. The feelings of sadness have significantly interfered with her ability to function and the client’s partner is concerned that they would risk the health of the mother and infant. The client denies having suicidal ideations or ill feelings toward her baby.

Past Psychiatric History:

  • General Statement: The client has no significant psychiatric history.
  • Caregivers (if applicable): None
  • Hospitalizations: None
  • Medication trials: None
  • Psychotherapy or Previous Psychiatric Diagnosis: None

Substance Current Use and History: The client reported taking whiskeys on weekends and using recreational marijuana before she got pregnant. She has not taken alcohol or used marijuana since she got pregnant.

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Family Psychiatric/Substance Use History: She has a maternal aunt who had depression and committed suicide. The maternal grandmother had dementia.

Psychosocial History: R.T. lives with her partner in Rockville MD. She is a hotel supervisor and has a diploma in Hospitality management. She has one son 14 weeks old. The partner is a salesman in an insurance firm.  The client’s support system is her partner and elder sister.


Medical History:

  • Current Medications: OTC Tylenol for occasional headaches.
  • Allergies:Allergic to Sulfa drugs.
  • Reproductive Hx:Para 1+0. No history of gynecologic or obstetric disorders.


Diagnostic results: No diagnostic tests were ordered for this patient


Mental Status Examination:

The client is well-groomed and appropriately dressed for the weather and function. She is alert and oriented to person, place, and time. She maintains adequate eye contact. The self-reported mood is sad and the affect is flat. Her speech is clear with normal rate and volume. She demonstrates a coherent, logical, and goal-directed thought process. No obvious delusions, hallucinations, obsessions, phobias, or suicidal ideations. She denies having negative feelings toward the child or thoughts about harming her child. Her long-term and short-term memory is intact. She demonstrates good judgment and insight is present.

Differential Diagnoses:

Postpartum Depression (PPD): PPD is a severe form of depression occurring in a woman in the first few weeks after childbirth. It develops in most cases in the first four months after delivery. It is characterized by sadness and frequent crying, loss of interest in the surrounding; loss of usual emotional response to the family; an intense feeling of unworthiness, guilt, and shame; generalized fatigue, irritability, and difficulty in concentrating; Anorexia and sleep disturbances (Yu et al., 2021). In addition, the woman has a tense irritable appearance, obsessive thoughts; persistent anxiety that makes her feel out of control; and lovingly cares for the infant but not feeling any love or pleasure (Anokye et al., 2018). PPD is the presumptive diagnosis based on the patient’s persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness that started in the postpartum, sleeping difficulties, and increased fatigue. Besides, the feelings of sadness have significantly interfered with her ability to function, which is consistent with PPD.

Postpartum Blues: Postpartum Blues are characterized by a rapidly fluctuating mood, tearfulness, irritability, and anxiety. The symptoms peak on the fourth or fifth-day post-delivery and last several days. The symptoms are generally time-limited and spontaneously abate within the first two weeks postpartum (Luciano et al., 2021). Unlike PPD, the symptoms of Postpartum blues do not impede a mother’s ability to function and care for the child. The patient’s depressed mood after delivery makes Postpartum Blues a likely diagnosis. However, the patient’s symptoms have persisted making this an unlikely diagnosis.

Postpartum Psychosis: This is a mental disorder that occurs in childbirth characterized by deep depression, delusions of the infant’s death, and homicidal feelings towards the child. The affected woman presents with changes in mood states, irrational behavior and agitation, fear, and perplexity as she quickly loses touch with reality (Perry et al., 2021). The signs and symptoms of Postpartum psychosis include restlessness, agitation, confusion, suspicion, insomnia, hyperactive episodes, disorder of thought process, talking rapidly and incessantly, being overactive and elated, profound depressive mood, and loss of memory and concentration. In addition, the woman has mood swings sometimes with inappropriate emotion, neglects basic needs, experiences difficulties with lactation, and has reduced sexual response (Perry et al., 2021). Postpartum psychosis is a differential based on the positive symptoms of depressed mood and insomnia. However, the patient’s symptoms do not meet the criteria for Postpartum psychosis, ruling it out as a primary diagnosis.


In a similar patient situation, I would have assessed the patient for risk factors of PPD like marital dysfunction or difficult relationship with significant others, anger about the pregnancy, feeling of isolation, or lack of social support (Yu et al., 2021). Low socioeconomic status is a social determinant of health (SDOH) linked with PPD. Adynski et al. (2019) explain that women with low-income levels tend to have financial worries during and after pregnancy, which increases the risk of PPD. Besides, lack of insurance hinders access to postpartum care where they can be diagnosed and treated early for PPD. Health promotion will focus on recommending the woman to acknowledge her feelings and insist that others acknowledge them too. The partner will be recommended to continue communication with the client and encourage continued contact with other adults (Anokye et al., 2018). Health education will focus on teaching the patient the importance of good nutrition and adequate rest in the postpartum period.

Case Formulation and Treatment Plan:  

The client has insomnia, adjustment difficulties, and difficulty coping with daily stressors associated with motherhood. 

Psychotherapy: The patient was initiated on individual psychotherapy comprising cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal therapy. She will also be introduced to a support group for new nursing mothers (Anokye et al., 2018).

Follow-up: The patient will be scheduled for a follow-up after four weeks to assess the progress of PPD symptoms with psychotherapy. Pharmacologic therapy will be recommended if her condition does not respond to psychotherapy.


Adynski, H., Zimmer, C., Thorp, J., Jr, & Santos, H. P., Jr (2019). Predictors of psychological distress in low-income mothers over the first postpartum year. Research in nursing & health42(3), 205–216.

Anokye, R., Acheampong, E., Budu-Ainooson, A., Obeng, E. I., & Akwasi, A. G. (2018). Prevalence of postpartum depression and interventions utilized for its management. Annals of general psychiatry17, 18.

Luciano, M., Sampogna, G., Del Vecchio, V., Giallonardo, V., Perris, F., Carfagno, M., Raia, M. L., Di Vincenzo, M., La Verde, M., Torella, M., & Fiorillo, A. (2021). The Transition From Maternity Blues to Full-Blown Perinatal Depression: Results From a Longitudinal Study. Frontiers in psychiatry12, 703180.

Perry, A., Gordon-Smith, K., Jones, L., & Jones, I. (2021). Phenomenology, Epidemiology, and Aetiology of Postpartum Psychosis: A Review. Brain sciences11(1), 47.

Yu, Y., Liang, H. F., Chen, J., Li, Z. B., Han, Y. S., Chen, J. X., & Li, J. C. (2021). Postpartum Depression: Current Status and Possible Identification Using Biomarkers. Frontiers in psychiatry12, 620371.

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