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Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression by Minnie Alcantara

minne_outdoors (459x640)Having a baby is a life-changing event which may trigger many emotions for new moms.  It is very common and natural to feel mood swings right after having a baby. For instance, you may feel ecstatic about your baby one moment and the next moment you’re feeling sad and irritable. According to the American Pregnancy Association, approximately 70-80% of new mothers experience negative feelings or mood swings after giving birth to their child. Most experts speculate that this sadness may be caused by the hormone changes in a woman’s body right after pregnancy.  This hormone change can cause a mother to feel stressed and overwhelmed; after all, the newborn baby didn’t come with an instruction manual! In addition to hormonal changes, factor in the physical and mental stress of the actual birth experience coupled with a lack of sleep and routine disturbances. It’s important to take the proper steps to prevent common baby blues from turning into postpartum depression which is more serious.

“Baby blues” typically occur about 3-5 days after delivering the baby and usually last no longer than 2 weeks after the birth. The blues tend to kick in for a few minutes to a few hours each day.  Symptoms of baby blues include irritability, sadness, anxiety, impatience, weepiness, sadness, fatigue, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and mood swings.  But realistically, who wouldn’t feel these symptoms after bringing home a newborn baby?  At first, it will be overwhelming due to the amount of adjustments necessary to integrate a new baby into your life.

It’s important for new moms to take care of themselves post-pregnancy.  Keeping an open line of communication with your partner and close friends or family about your feelings will definitely be healthier as opposed to bottling up your emotions.  Remember that it is completely natural and normal to feel these emotional changes after giving birth.  By voicing your feelings openly everyone else around you will have a better understanding of what you’re experiencing.  Also keep in mind that there is no shame in asking your partner, family, and friends for help to take care of the baby and chores around the house.  Getting rest is very important.  You could try to get some sleep when the baby sleeps or ask your partner to keep an eye on the baby while you nap.  Maintaining a well-balanced diet is crucial, especially if you’re breastfeeding since you’ll need a higher caloric intake to produce breast milk.  Finally, make time for yourself, even if it is just to take a relaxing shower or stepping outside each day to breathe fresh air.  You will be surprised to find that something so small can be such a refreshing mental break.   In addition to keeping in touch with your friends, consider joining a group of new mothers.  It will be reassuring to know that there are other moms who share the same insecurities, worries, and feelings as they transition into motherhood.  After the second week post-delivery, these baby blues should fade away and you’ll be further along the healing process from the childbirth. However, if your symptoms worsen or persist, this could mean your condition may be more serious.  Make sure to follow up with your healthcare provider and be honest about your current mental state to get you on the right path with the proper treatment.

The American Pregnancy Association states that about 15% of new mothers experience postpartum depression which can occur as soon as a few days after the childbirth and even as late as a year after.  The difference between baby blues and postpartum depression is that the feelings of sadness during post-partum depression are more intense and linger for a longer period of time.  Postpartum depression is actually the most common problem for new mothers.  Symptoms of postpartum depression include: lack of interest or pleasure in your usual activities, fatigue, change in appetite, insomnia, feeling worthless, hopelessness, anger, anxiety, lack of energy and motivation, withdrawing from friends and family, headaches and experiencing aches and pains that do not resolve or go away.

Many factors account for the cause of depression after childbirth such as genetic, hormonal, biochemical, physiological and environmental changes.  According to Womenshealth.gov, researchers have found that a mother will have a higher risk for postpartum depression if she has:

  • an existing personal history of depression or other mental illnesses
  • a family history of depression
  • experienced negative feelings and anxiety during the pregnancy
  • stressful life events
  • substance abuse issues
  • a lower socioeconomic status
  • a lack of support from family and friends

Untreated postpartum depression will affect your parenting abilities since you will have a lack of energy, ability to stay focused, and moodiness.   These symptoms may prevent you from fully meeting your child’s needs.   As a result, you may experience feelings of guilt and a lower self-esteem as a parent which just exacerbates the depression.  Womenshealth.gov states that postpartum depression can cause the baby to have delays in language development, problems bonding with their mother, behavioral problems, and increased crying.  It is recommended to seek professional help immediately if thoughts of harming yourself or your baby occur.  Your medical provider is there to help you and offer treatment depending on the severity of your postpartum depression.  Treatments range from counseling, hormone therapy, to antidepressants.

Keep your partner involved, don’t hesitate to ask for help, and communicate your feelings freely.  You are both in this together and will need to work more than ever as a team.  Take time for yourself and keep in mind that a world exists beyond the walls of diapers, feedings, and spit up.  Keep in touch with friends and family, take relaxing showers, get rest and sleep, find some time to unwind, go for a stroll to get fresh air since it will start all over again the next day!  Take advantage of this time to take it easy and slow down and keep your mind off of work if you’re on maternity leave, because it will all be there when you return.   Don’t fret that your baby will never establish a sleeping or feeding schedule.  In time, a routine will fall into place.  Although it may be hard to overlook the piles of laundry, dirty diapers, and long days, nevertheless try to cherish this time with your precious newborn because you will never get those moments back again.

The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.