Recently I shared some of the feelings I have had since the birth of our daughter three weeks ago. As hard as it is to admit I'm having these feelings, I know I am not alone. If you feel down and can't pick yourself up after the birth of a child, you too may be suffering from the ‘baby blues‘ or postpartum depression. Recognizing these feelings and being honest with yourself is the first step to getting help. Reaching out to friends, family, and doctors, as well as learning to take care of yourself, can help decrease symptoms and get you started on the road to recovery.
Below are some of the symptoms of ‘baby blues' and postpartum depression, as well as suggestions on when to seek medical help, that can help you decide if you may be suffering from either of these common medical conditions.
Symptoms of Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
Approximately 70-80% of new mothers experience mood swings and some negative feelings after childbirth. Symptoms of ‘baby blues' can occur within four to five days after the birth of the baby.
Symptoms of ‘baby blues' include:
- Crying for no apparent reason
- Mood changes
- Poor concentration
- Insomnia (even when the baby is sleeping)
Though ‘baby blues' are thought to be related to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and after a baby is born, the exact cause is unknown.
Symptoms of ‘baby blues' normally occur for a few minutes up to few hours each day, with symptoms diminishing and disappearing within fourteen days after delivery. If your symptoms last longer than fourteen days, it could be a sign of a more serious condition such as postpartum depression.
Depression, on the other hand, is more than just feeling blue or down in the dumps for a few days. It's a serious illness that needs to be treated by a doctor.
With depression, sad, anxious, or empty feelings don't go away and interfere with day-to-day life.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Frequent sadness or crying
- Overconcern for your baby
- Lack of feelings for your baby
- Changes in appetite
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Intense fatigue with low mood
- Emotional numbness
- Feelings of helplessness and despair
- Irritability, surges of anger
- Feelings of inadequacy, guilt or shame
- Difficulty concentrating, indecisiveness
- Frightening feelings
- Repetitive fears, thoughts or images
- Exaggerated high or low moods
- Dramatic changes in your feelings ranging from sadness to thoughts of suicide
Symptoms of depression can occur within days of the delivery or appear anytime within the first year. The good news is that most people with depression get better with treatment so always consult your doctor before symptoms worsen.
Chasing Those Blues Away
If you suffer from ‘baby blues', taking care of yourself is the best way to decrease the symptoms. Some things you can do for yourself include:
- Talk with someone you trust about how you are feeling.
- Join a support group for new mothers.
- Make time each day to do something you enjoy.
- Get outside to enjoy fresh air and life outside the confines of diapers, feedings and spit up.
- Give yourself a change of scenery by meeting with a friend for a cup of coffee or enjoy an evening out on the town with your partner.
- Maintain a well-balanced diet. Having a new baby may cause you not to eat correctly which can make mood swings more pronounced
- Ask for help with meals and other children that will allow you to focus on the joy of having a new baby, and not the pressure of juggling it all.
- Give yourself time to heal from birth, time to adjust to your new baby and time for feeding and sleeping routines to settle in.
Always remember that you are not alone in your feelings, and always be honest with your health care provider at all your follow-up appointments.