What Do I Have: Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?

    What Do I Have: Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?
    Updated 07 February 2023 |
    Published 08 November 2018
    Fact Checked
    Dr. Anna Klepchukova
    Reviewed by Dr. Anna Klepchukova, Intensive care medicine specialist, chief medical officer, Flo Health Inc., UK
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    Do you feel depressed, tearful, fatigue starting 2-3 days after delivery? Do you experience frequent mood swings in this period? If you do, then you have the baby blues. Let's find the difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression. There is a number of significant differences between the both.

    Baby blues: causes, symptoms, treatment

    This is completely normal for new mothers to experience a mini-storm of emotions. After the birth of your child, you have plenty of hormones coursing through your bloodstream. 

    The result of this hormone overlord is that you get some bit of anxiety and constant mood changes - known as the ''baby blues'' - that peak around five days after delivery of the child and usually go away within 10 days. 

    The baby blues are considered to be the least severe form of postpartum depression. Over eighty percent of mothers go through this experience after bringing new life into the world.

    What causes baby blues?

    After the birth of your baby, your body needs to go back to the state it was in before you got pregnant. Therefore, it needs to replace the hormones that have been sustaining the pregnancy.

    This change in hormones is linked to the change in mood. And since replacement of the pregnancy hormones is not instant, the signs and symptoms are present for around 10 -14 days.

    Another cause of the baby blues is when you realize the mountain of work ahead of you just after giving birth. A baby brings with it a set of challenges that you probably realize when you actually have it in your arms.

    One you understand how many new tasks at hand you have, you start worrying and get anxious. This is more so if it’s your first time giving birth to a baby.

    What are the symptoms of baby blues?

    The baby blues manifest in a number of ways, including:

    • Sadness
    • Sudden mood changes
    • Insomnia
    • Irritability
    • Impatience
    • Fatigue
    • Frequent crying or weeping. 

    How to treat the baby blues?

    You can treat the baby blues by taking part in psychotherapy. This includes scheduling and attending sessions where you talk about how you feel.

    Your therapist can identify the signs of postpartum depression. They will give you advice on what to do to dispel the feeling of being constantly sad. You can also get tips for dealing with the signs and symptoms as laid out above.

    If you are feeling really depressed, your medical professional can prescribe some antidepressant medication. This will lighten your mood.  Remember that antidepressants will start to work not from the beginning of the therapy. Usually u will feel some relief in about 1- 2 months of therapy. 

    Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression

    When the baby blues intensify and persist for more than a couple of weeks, then you have the postpartum depression

    With postpartum depression, mothers get strong feelings of sadness, anxiety, and fatigue. This builds up to a point where the mother cannot take care of herself or her child.

    As a mother with postpartum depression (ppd), you feel that every task or chore is too stressful and not worth the effort. This can even include breastfeeding your baby or just carrying them. With a child that relies on you for practically everything, even mild postpartum depression is bad.

    What does postpartum depression look like?

    Here are a dozen of postparum depression signs and symptoms:

    • Feeling overwhelmed by the new state of motherhood
    • Frequently bursting into tears for no apparent reason
    • Constantly doubting your ability to look after your baby
    • Feeling disconnected from your baby
    • Insomnia even when your baby is asleep
    • Also, oversleeping when your baby needs you
    • Frequent mood swings; being super calm and then flying into rages
    • Keeping away from friends and family
    • Finding little or no interest in activities that you usually like
    • Depriving yourself of food
    • Conversely, gorging yourself on food — especially unhealthy treats
    • Thoughts of suicide.

    Tips to cope with baby blues and ppd

    When you experience the baby blues or the more serious postpartum depression, you shouldn’t lose hope. There are plenty of ways through which you can positively keep a handle your postpartum mood disturbance.

    Rest, relax, and sleep whenever you can

    Getting a full night’s sleep when you have a newborn baby in the house can be a difficult task to pull off. This lack of sleep can cause you to be cranky and irritable — one of the signs of baby blues.

    You should, therefore, try to sleep whenever the baby is asleep. If you have to feed the baby during the night, you can pump a bottle earlier so that your partner can take over the feeding duties that night. 

    If other family members or friends offer to help with babysitting, take the chance and get time to relax and rest. This will clear your mind of many of the mental postpartum symptoms.

    Eat a nutritious and balanced diet

    Your body needs nourishment to attain or maintain its healthy state. You, therefore, need to have a healthy diet.

    After giving birth, your attention is mostly focused on your baby. This can lead you to ignore yourself and snack on unhealthy treats that provide no nourishment and also sour your mood.

    If you want to snack, you should reach for healthy fruits and veggies like apples, carrots or grapes.

    Your diet should also contain some fish so that you can get useful omega 3 fatty acids like DHA.

    Interact with others

    When you coop yourself up and isolate yourself from family and friends, you develop more guilt and suicidal thoughts. This isolation also makes your depression more stifling over every aspect of your life.

    Interaction with your friends and family lightens your mood because you can talk through your struggles and about your feelings. Your friends and family are your first-line postpartum depression support.

    Exercise regularly

    Exercise is a great way to life your mood. When you engage in exercise, your body releases endorphins which relieve anxiety and ease mood swings.

    You do not have to get a gym membership and pump iron to get the benefits. You can do something simple like going for a walk. Actually, you can take your baby along with you in a stroller so that you can further connect with them.

    When is it time to seek professional treatment?

    Since many women experience the baby blues and take it as the norm after childbirth, it can be difficult to admit that you need to see a doctor.

    However, if your feelings of sadness, anxiety, and depression intensify and don't abate after a couple of weeks, you should seek medical intervention.

    Postpartum depression is a chronic condition and so it’s easy for it to creep up on you. You should, therefore, watch out for the signs and symptoms.

    How to help your partner?

    When the mother is experiencing the blues, the partner needs to provide a helping hand to get her through it.

    As a partner, therefore, you have to be there for her. Encourage to rest as much as possible. Shoulder some of the responsibility like quieting the baby or changing the diapers. This enables the mother to get the sleep she needs.

    Prepare her meals so that she doesn’t have to think about what to include. These regular meals should follow a balanced diet. Having good nutrition is very important in postpartum blues treatment.

    It also works wonders when you help her plan her day. Make a list of what needs to be done and when it should be done. With this plan, she doesn’t have to constantly think about what she has and hasn’t yet done — it’s all laid out properly for her.

    To get over the baby blues, the mother needs as much emotional support as possible from her partner. You, therefore, need to give her compliments and encouragement to let her know what an excellent mother she is.

    If possible, you can look for and recommend some postpartum depression support groups so that she can have people around her who understand exactly what she’s going through.

    You need to weather the irritability that comes with baby blues. Keep away visitors in the initial days because they can exacerbate the irritability.

    By the way, new dads also suffer from postpartum mental disorders and also need a helping hand. 

    The key thing is not to neglect the symptoms, help each other, and seek professional treatment if needed. 

    History of updates

    Current version (07 February 2023)
    Reviewed by Dr. Anna Klepchukova, Intensive care medicine specialist, chief medical officer, Flo Health Inc., UK
    Published (08 November 2018)

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