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"Baby Blues"? Understanding Postpartum Depression


The days following childbirth can be a stressful time for a new mother. In addition to the physical changes following childbirth, women also experience emotional changes. Historically referred to as “baby blues”, clinicians now report that these “baby blues” symptoms may sometimes indicate postpartum depression. In this article, we will be discussing the difference between “baby blues” and postpartum depression. Additionally, we will be identifying potential signs of postpartum depression. Finally, we will be discussing recommendations for new mothers who believe that they may have postpartum depression.



What Are "Baby Blues"?


The term “baby blues” refers to the mood swings that a new mother may experience following childbirth. These symptoms often show up within four to five days of giving birth. Common symptoms include crying for no apparent reason, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, sadness, poor concentration, restlessness and mood changes.


How Common are "Baby Blues"?


The American Pregnancy Association estimates that approximately 70 to 80% of all new mothers experience mood swings or negative feelings following childbirth.


How Long Do the "Baby Blues" Last?


In general, the symptoms show up within a few days after giving birth and last for about two weeks. Often, the symptoms are intermittent during this time period.


What is Postpartum Depression?


Postpartum depression is a type of depression that occurs following childbirth. Although these feelings initially may be interpreted as “baby blues”, postpartum depression involves more severe symptoms that last longer. The symptoms of postpartum depression may interfere with your ability to care for your baby.


What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?


Symptoms of postpartum depression include overwhelming fatigue, difficulty bonding with your baby, excessing crying, severe mood swings, depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, severe anxiety, loss of appetite, thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, and reduced interest in activities that you previously enjoyed.


A rare form of postpartum depression is postpartum psychosis. The symptoms of postpartum psychosis include obsessive thoughts about your baby, hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and attempts to harm yourself or your baby.


What Causes Postpartum Depression?


Following childbirth, a woman experiences a dramatic change in her hormone levels. Physicians believe that this may contribute to postpartum depression. Additionally, there are emotional issues that come with being sleep deprived and overwhelmed, which most new mothers experience.


What Are the Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression?


You may be at increased risk for postpartum depression if you have a history of depression or a family history of depression or mood disorders. Other risk factors include a baby with health problems or special needs, difficulty breastfeeding, relationship issues, financial problems and a weak social support system.


When Should I Seek Help for Postpartum Depression?


New mothers may be hesitant to reach out for help when they experience symptoms of postpartum depression. It is important to reach out to your physician if the symptoms do not improve after two weeks, if the symptoms are getting worse, if it is difficult to take care of your baby or if the symptoms interfere with your ability to complete everyday tasks.


If you experience thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, it is important to seek help immediately and call 911 and request emergency assistance.


What If My Friend Has Postpartum Depression?


Many women with postpartum depression may not recognize the symptoms. It is important to be aware of the symptoms of postpartum depression and encourage your friend to seek medical help immediately.


How Do I Prevent Postpartum Depression?


If you have a history of depression or postpartum depression, it is important to discuss this with your physician if you plan on becoming pregnant. Your provider may recommend counseling, support groups or medications, sometimes even prior to giving birth. Following childbirth, your physician may screen you earlier for postpartum depression and begin earlier treatment.


Takeaway Message:


While the “baby blues” are experienced by 70-80% of new mothers, postpartum depression involves symptoms that are more severe and which last longer. There are several risk factors for postpartum depression, including financial issues, relationship difficulties, a history of depression and a lack of social support. It is important to discuss your concerns with your physician if you plan on becoming pregnant. Women with severe symptoms should seek out immediate assistance.



Have you experienced the “baby blues”? What about postpartum depression? Please share in the comments below.

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