Studies say that 70-80% of new mothers experience normal baby blues. Baby blues are caused by the sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone 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 pretty 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 new moms also experience anxiety or an inability to concentrate. You could compare the baby blues to a severe version of PMS.
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 would 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% of women experience a more severe version of the baby blues called postpartum depression. And postpartum depression continues beyond the first few weeks after delivery. And while it usually 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 include feeling worthless, losing interest in usual activities, lacking interest in your baby, and even thoughts of harming yourself 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 ignores it. And the symptoms continue.
If, for any reason, you end up having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, do not panic. Instead, tell your husband or closest confidant that you have 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, 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 severe or lengthy, as long as you address it and take action. The first step is scheduling an appointment with your OB so that they 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 everyday 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 crucial 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.
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 know 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. 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.