How to Recognize and Treat Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression
Studies say that 70-80% of new mothers experience what is considered normal baby blues. Baby blues are caused by the sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone that was produced during pregnancy, which causes sadness to ensue. For new moms who have spent their entire pregnancies anticipating the arrival of their little ones, it can be quite surprising, and shame-inducing, to feel sadness or anxiety after coming home from the hospital. It’s supposed to be the happiest time in their lives, but they don’t feel happy. And that reality in and of itself can be depressing.
So what are the Baby Blues?
The baby blues are characterized by feeling sad, irritable, weepy, vulnerable, needy and emotional. However, these symptoms are experienced within the first two weeks after delivery. Some women also experience anxiety or an inability to concentrate. The baby blues could be compared to a severe version of PMS.
Personally, I know in the first two weeks after all three of my previous deliveries, I experienced a feeling of intense clinginess to my babies. I remember asking my sister to hold my first son next to me while I slept. With my third son, I also felt heightened anxiety; I was worried something was going to happen to him. And I was worried about everything. Luckily, after the first few weeks, my symptoms stopped and I began to feel normal again.
However, 10-20% percent of women go on to experience an even more serious version of the baby blues called postpartum depression. And postpartum depression continues beyond the first few weeks after delivery. And while it normally appears within the first couple of months, it may wait to show up months into the first year of your baby’s life, which is why it is so important to recognize the symptoms.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression symptoms are similar to the symptoms of baby blues, but are more severe. And if you have struggled with depression throughout your life, you may be more prone to it. In addition to feeling sad, irritable, weepy, vulnerable, needy and emotional, postpartum depression can also include feeling worthless, loss of interest in normal activities, lack of interest in your baby and even thoughts of harming your own self or your baby. And because no mom wants to admit that she is having thoughts of harming her baby, this kind of depression often goes untreated. A mom feels like something is wrong with her, so she tries to ignore it. And the symptoms just continue.
If for any reason you end up having thoughts of harming yourself or baby, do not panic. Instead tell your husband or closest confidant that you are having strange feelings, and hand the baby over until you feel better. If you don’t think you would be able to admit to someone that you are having problems, then set up an accountability team before birth to check in with you regularly post-delivery. This should continue throughout the first year.
Postpartum depression doesn’t have to be serious or lengthy, as long as you address it and take action. The first step is scheduling an appointment with your OB so that he or she can listen to your symptoms, and then refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for appropriate medicine or psychotherapy. With proper treatment and therapy, symptoms can be quickly addressed. And a new mother can return to normal mom life enjoying her sweet and wonderful baby!
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help!
However, many women wait too long and become so depressed that they don’t know how to get help. And others may not recognize they have a problem. So it is very important to speak up if you feel like a friend does not seem like herself post-delivery. If you notice strange behavior like a lack of interest in her baby, or tears every time you see her, don’t be afraid to step up and say something. She will thank you later.
I have had several friends who experienced postpartum depression say it was really after the first year passed that they looked back and realized something was wrong. But they didn’t realize how bad it was at the time. And they wish they would have gotten help sooner.
So in conclusion, nothing is wrong with a woman who experiences baby blues or postpartum depression. In fact, it is normal to experience some form of the blues. It is not a sign of weakness or impairment, and there is nothing you can do to prevent it. However, it is your responsibility to be honest if you need help! So please don’t be ashamed to do so. Not only for yourself, but also for your precious baby.