The Institute for Women's Health
Gonima

Having a baby should be the happiest time of your life, right? So why are you feeling sad and out of yourself the first few days after giving birth to your baby?

If you’re feeling irritable, sad, and find yourself crying often the first week or two after giving birth, you’re not alone. Up to 80 percent of new mothers experience weepiness, irritability, frustration, mood swings, vulnerability, forgetfulness, exhaustion, and stress for the first two weeks after delivering. This condition, known as the Baby Blues, will peak itself around five days after delivery and should resolve on its own in around ten days.

The problem is that during this time, new mothers are also at risk of developing Postpartum Depression (PPD), which according to the American Psychological Association affects between 9-16 percent of postpartum women. Unlike the Baby Blues, PPD is a serious condition that requires treatment. It’s important to know the difference so that you can get timely care if needed.

How can I distinguish PPD from the Baby Blues?

The number one differentiating factor is that PPD impairs your normal functioning, explains clinical psychologist, Shoshana Bennett in her Psychology Today article. Although you experience ups and downs with the Baby Blues, you should feel happy most of the time. On the other hand, women suffering from PPD have symptoms like loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, hopelessness, anger, low self-esteem, and deep sadness that keep them from being able to perform their daily activities.

Another big differentiating factor is time frame. Symptoms of the Baby Blues should only last for a few days and a maximum of two weeks. After that, it is considered Postpartum Depression. However, if symptoms are keeping a new mother from being able to perform her daily activities it is probably PPD even if it hasn’t been two weeks. Women with both conditions report feeling tired and overwhelmed but the major difference is that with the Baby Blues these feelings go away with rest or support from loved ones.

What should I do if I’m experiencing the Baby Blues?

Remind yourself that what you are feeling is normal and that it doesn’t make you a bad or unfit mother. Make sure you get plenty of rest and ask your partner or loved ones to provide support during this time. Talking to other new mothers who are going through the same thing can also help you feel better. It is important to talk about your experience with a trusted doctor, such as your OB/GYN, who can reassure you that these feelings are normal and can let you know if it’s time to seek additional help.

What should I do if I’m experiencing Postpartum Depression?

If you suspect that you are suffering from PPD, seek professional help from a licensed counselor or psychologist. He or she can provide you with treatment options that will help you go back to your regular functioning and let you enjoy your new baby. Your OB/GYN can evaluate your symptoms and help you take the next steps toward recovery.

Keep in mind that there is a dangerous condition known as Postpartum Psychosis in which new mothers experience hallucinations, paranoia, confusion, and suicidal thoughts. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK or chat online at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org (available 24/7) if you ever have thoughts of hurting yourself.

Gonima, Camilo A., MD
The Institute for Women’s Health

 

References:

New York State Department of Health: https://www.health.ny.gov/community/pregnancy/health_care/perinatal/maternal_factsheet.htm

Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mommy-mental-health/200902/baby-blues-or-postpartum-depression

American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/depression/postpartum.aspx

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