Having a baby is a big change in your life. You probably expect to feel happy and proud about the new member of your family, but many moms feel moody and overwhelmed instead.


It’s normal to feel this way for a little while. After you give birth, your hormone levels drop, which impacts your mood. Your newborn is probably waking up at all hours, too, so you aren’t getting enough sleep. That alone can make you irritable. You might simply be worried about caring for your baby, and it makes you feel a kind of stress you haven’t dealt with before.


As parents adjust to the demands of caring for a newborn, you may experience a range of feelings commonly known as "baby blues" or, in some cases, a more serious condition called postpartum depression (PPD). While these terms are often used interchangeably, it's important to recognize the distinction between them. In this blog, we'll explore the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression, understanding their symptoms, causes, and strategies for coping.

 

It’s Not Just You


You’re not the first mom to deal with these emotional ups and downs. Up to 80% of new mothers get what’s called the “baby blues” -- short-term dips in mood caused by all of the changes that come with a new baby.

These feelings often begin when your newborn is just 2 or 3 days old, but you’re likely to feel better by the time your baby is 1 or 2 weeks old.

If your feelings of sadness last longer than that, or become worse instead of better, you may have what’s called postpartum depression. It’s more severe and lasts longer than the baby blues, and about 10% of women get it. You’re more likely to have postpartum depression if you’ve already had bouts of depression or if it runs in your family.

 

When It’s the Baby Blues


It could be Baby Blues if:

Your mood swings quickly from happy to sad. One minute, you’re proud of the job that you’re doing as a new mom. The next, you’re crying because you think you’re not up to the task.

  • You don’t feel like eating or taking care of yourself because you’re exhausted.
  • You feel irritable, overwhelmed, and anxious.

 

When It’s Postpartum Depression


It could be postpartum depression:


  • You feel hopeless, sad, worthless, or alone all the time, and you cry often.
  • You don’t feel like you’re doing a good job as a new mom.
  • You’re not bonding with your baby.
  • You can’t eat, sleep, or take care of your baby because of your overwhelming despair.
  • You could have anxiety and panic attacks.

 

How to Treat the Baby Blues


You should start to feel better if you do what your body needs during this stressful time.


  • Sleep as much as you can, and rest when your baby is napping.
  • Eat foods that are good for you. You’ll feel better with healthy fuel in your system.
  • Go for a walk. Exercise, fresh air, and sunshine can do wonders.
  • Accept help when people offer it.
  • Don’t worry about chores. Just focus on you and your baby.

 

When to see a doctor


If you're feeling depressed after your baby's birth, you may be reluctant or embarrassed to admit it. But if you experience any symptoms of postpartum baby blues or postpartum depression, call your primary health care provider or your obstetrician or gynecologist and schedule an appointment. If you have symptoms that suggest you may have postpartum psychosis, get help immediately.


It's important to call your provider as soon as possible if the symptoms of depression have any of these features:


  • Don't fade after two weeks.
  • Are getting worse.
  • Make it hard for you to care for your baby.
  • Make it hard to complete everyday tasks.
  • Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

 

Prevention


If you have a history of depression — especially postpartum depression — tell your health care provider if you're planning on becoming pregnant or as soon as you find out you're pregnant.


  • During pregnancy, your provider can monitor you closely for symptoms of depression. You may complete a depression-screening questionnaire during your pregnancy and after delivery. Sometimes mild depression can be managed with support groups, counseling or other therapies. In other cases, antidepressants may be recommended — even during pregnancy.
  • After your baby is born, your provider may recommend an early postpartum checkup to screen for symptoms of postpartum depression. The earlier it's found, the earlier treatment can begin. If you have a history of postpartum depression, your provider may recommend antidepressant treatment or talk therapy immediately after delivery. Most antidepressants are safe to take while breastfeeding.

People with depression may not recognize or admit that they're depressed. They may not be aware of signs and symptoms of depression. If you suspect that a friend or loved one has postpartum depression or is developing postpartum psychosis, help them seek medical attention immediately. Don't wait and hope for improvement.


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