What to Know About the Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

It is important for new moms to know that if they experience the baby blues it is common and not a sign that something is wrong with them.

By: Dr. Carleen Hanson, Pediatrics

When you have a newborn, your life is a whirlwind — not only in regards to daily activities (When was the last time I ate sitting down or even ate at all? Yes, it’s 4:30 in the afternoon, and I am still in my pajamas), but also for your emotions. With the combination of recovering from the delivery, sleep deprivation and hormone surges, many new moms have mood swings that can catch them off guard. Some moms are surprised by having not only positive emotions, but also by feeling down and depressed. They often wonder if there is something wrong with them because of this – “I have this beautiful, healthy baby…why do I feel sad?”

Up to 80 percent of new moms experience the “baby blues,” which often starts a few days to a week after delivery and typically lasts no longer than two weeks. With the baby blues, women may find themselves suddenly in tears or feeling more anxious than usual. It’s also common to be very moody and to feel trapped or isolated. Sometimes the most frustrating symptom is having trouble sleeping, despite being exhausted.

The important thing for new moms to know if they experience the baby blues is that it’s common and not a sign that anything is wrong with them. For many new moms, the best thing to help with the baby blues is a little extra sleep, even a short nap is beneficial, and some extra help with household chores. Knowing that someone else is going to clean up the dishes and fold the laundry can be uplifting and help decrease feeling overwhelmed. Most of the time, the baby blues will go away on their own after 1-2 weeks.

For some women, the baby blues is something more. About 10-15 percent of new moms experience some degree of postpartum depression (PPD). In the first few weeks, it can be hard to distinguish between the blues and PPD as many of their symptoms overlap; although, typically the symptoms of PPD are more severe and last longer than 2 weeks. Some examples are:

  • Lack of interest in your baby or negative feelings about your baby
  • Significant loss of appetite
  • Inability to find pleasure in activities
  • Lack of motivation and energy
  • Lack of concern about yourself
  • Thoughts about death and suicide
  • Thoughts about harming your baby

Postpartum depression can improve on its own but untreated it can last months. Still, many new moms feel embarrassed to admit that they are having anything other than joyful emotions. If there is any concern about PPD, it’s important to be in touch with a health care provider because there is help and treatment available.

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