What’s the Difference Between Postpartum Blues and Postpartum Depression?
Having a baby is undoubtedly one of the most exciting times for an expecting parent. It is often a time full of joy, laughter, and an amount of love you couldn’t have imagined. It is also portrayed as being nothing but this so everyone expects puppies and rainbows when growing a family. The reality is that happiness is just one of the emotions that come along with having a kid. Anxiety, nervousness, guilt, shame, grief, sadness, loneliness, anger, irritability, and resentment are just as likely to show up at some point along the way.
So why do I feel it’s important to bring this up? Because everyone experiences it and yet no one talks about it. This results in feeling even more guilt and shame, more sadness, and more isolation all of which are unnecessary. It’s also a very fine line between a “normal” level of unhappiness that will pass and clinical depression that may put yourself and/or your baby at risk. Having a baby, whether it’s your firstborn or even your third or fifth, is a big change and an emotional rollercoaster. The more informed we can be as parents (both birthers and partners of birthers), the more smooth the ride can be even when ups and downs can never be avoided.
So let’s start by talking about the feelings of moodiness, irritability, sadness, and mild depression three to five days after birth that can last for up to two weeks…also referred to as the “baby blues”.
Do you Mean “Blue’s Clues”?
Unlike the kids’ television program, baby blues is not about an animated blue-spotted dog named Blue. Opposite of the program, the baby blues is not all smiles and sunshine for the birther.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, “Approximately 70-80% of all new mothers experience some negative feelings or mood swings after the birth of their child.”
Most birthers experience some of the symptoms associated with the baby blues almost immediately after childbirth. Symptoms of the baby blues include but are not limited to:
- Crying for no reason
- Feelings of restlessness and impatience
- Feeling “not myself today”
- Insomnia (even when the baby is asleep)
- Sadness or extreme sadness
- Poor concentration
What Causes the Baby Blues
No one is 100% sure what causes the baby blues, but all signs point toward the changes in hormones in the body before and during pregnancy, and after birth. According to March of Dimes, “After delivery, the amount of the hormones estrogen and progesterone suddenly decreases, causing mood swings. For some people, the hormones made by the thyroid gland may drop sharply, which can make them feel tired and depressed. Not getting enough sleep and not eating well can add to these feelings.”
On top of the chemical changes that may influence baby blues, factor in the physical and environmental changes you as the birther and your family have to adapt to such as sleepless nights, a new and different body, changes to your social life and nerves around keeping a baby alive when you have no idea what you are doing.
The baby blues is perfectly normal and should be expected after birth, but if your symptoms don’t go away after the first few weeks, or if they get worse, you may be dealing with postpartum depression, in which case, you should seek professional and medical advice. This is that fine line I believe everyone needs to be aware of.
While they may sound similar, there is a huge difference between baby blues and postpartum depression. Baby blues should last no longer than two weeks, while postpartum depression can last up to a year, and for some, even longer. Postpartum depression is serious and severe and between 10%-15% of birthers will get it. Please do not ignore any of the symptoms if they last longer than two weeks.
Signs & Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
There is no “You must checkmark all of these to have PPD” rule here, some birthers experience just a few, while others experience almost all.
- Feelings of hopelessness and you feel worthless
- You feel lonely even when you’re not alone
- You cry often
- You often feel like you’re not doing a good job as a new parent
- You can’t eat, sleep, or take care of your new baby because you just feel overwhelming despair
- You have or come close to anxiety or panic attacks
- Feeling detached from your baby
- Aggression and extreme stress
- You may find yourself withdrawing from your family, partner, newborn, and even children
- You might find yourself preoccupying your mind with thoughts of death and may even wish you weren’t alive
These are all red flags of postpartum depression and should not be taken lightly or be excused with thoughts like “I’ll just wait it out, it’ll pass”.
So How Do you tell the Difference Between Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression?
- Timeline. The baby blues occurs 3-5 days after birth and the symptoms will last up to two weeks. Postpartum depression on the other hand, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists can occur up to 1 year after having a baby, but it most commonly starts about 1–3 weeks after childbirth.”
- Symptoms. While the symptoms of both the baby blues and postpartum depression are similar, the difference is in the intensity of the symptoms. With postpartum depression, you will feel the symptoms of the baby blues but they’ll feel more intense, like a looming cloud over your head.
The trickiest part about identifying postpartum depression is that the birther will oftentimes not be the one able to, given their emotional state. This is why it is extremely important for family, friends, and partners to check in often and identify when something doesn’t seem right.
It is also important and strongly encouraged to always keep open and honest communication between you and your healthcare provider. Having sadness when having a kid doesn’t make you a bad parent nor does it imply you don’t love your kid. It just means you’re human. Don’t let any shame or guilt around what you actually feel prevent you from getting the treatment you need so that you can be the parent you desire to be. You’re not alone!
For immediate support call the postpartum support international helpline at 1-800-944-4773
For more resources visit https://www.postpartum.net