Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

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Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

Mood swings, anxiety, and even mild depression are frequent in new mothers, and these are called baby blues / Photo by Photographee.eu via Shutterstock

 

No matter how much you love your baby, it can’t be denied that taking care of the little one can be much stressful especially if it’s your first. The new responsibilities that come with the baby—sleepless nights and many others –can cause a rollercoaster of emotions to mothers. 

Baby blues are normal, but if they get worse, or do not go away after a few weeks, it may be postpartum depression. 

Baby blues

As expected when having a baby, you are going to feel very happy. While you expected inexplicable happiness and excitement, you were not prepared for the exhaustion that comes with motherhood. There are times that you feel like crying. Mood swings, anxiety, and even mild depression are frequent in new mothers, and these are called baby blues. 

Many women can experience baby blues right after childbirth. About 30 to 80% of mothers experience this. Symptoms start within 3 to 10 days and then go away after 2 to 3 weeks. Baby blues is a feeling that is brought about by sudden hormonal changes after childbirth, including other stresses, such as sleep deprivation and fatigue. 

Postpartum anxiety

Anxiety disorders can also happen after childbirth. Sometimes, the mother feels anxious that she is having a hard time caring for the baby. Some women think that they might bring harm to their baby. 

Anxiety can be exacerbated during postpartum, and these can include generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression is a more severe problem. Unlike baby blues, postpartum depression lasts longer and must not be ignored. While it may mimic similar symptoms as baby blues, the symptoms are more severe in postpartum depression. Some of the symptoms of postpartum depression include withdrawal from your baby and partner. You do not bond well with your baby. Another sign is the inability to sleep due to uncontrolled anxiety. Postpartum depression also makes one feel useless and guilty, with thoughts of wanting to die. Other symptoms of postpartum depression, according to bloodandmilk.com, include weight changes, low mood most of the time, disinterest in the baby, cannot care for oneself, inability to make decisions, and thoughts of harming baby or self.

What are the causes of and risk factors for postpartum depression?

There are many factors that can put one at risk in developing postpartum depression. A previous episode of depression is a contributing factor. Other stressors include lack of social and emotional support, dysfunctional or abusive family relationship, and financial issues. 

After giving birth, there is a huge drop in estrogen and progesterone levels. Thyroid levels can also be affected that can lead to depression and fatigue. These hormonal changes can trigger postpartum depression. 

Aside from hormonal changes, there are also various physical and emotional changes that are brought about by childbirth. There are physical pain and weight gain that makes a woman feel less attractive. The stress from caring for a newborn can take its toll on the mother that leaves her feeling overwhelmed. This is especially challenging for a first-time mother.

Recognizing postpartum conditions

Nobody is sure why women get baby blues or postpartum depression during the time when they are supposed to be very happy with the birth of a new baby. No matter what the cause is, these conditions affect a mother's quality of life and can be life-threatening. If you feel that you are experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, talk to your healthcare provider right away. There are various treatments available that are very effective in combating depression. 

Therapy and medications can work well together and can also be useful when used independently. According to experts, cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy can be effective treatments. 

Other activities such as yoga, light exercises, and improving the relationship with your partner can help alleviate postpartum depression. According to Dr. Susan Park, “I recommend starting light exercises like yoga early in the postpartum period, and to leave the house once a day for fresh air.”

Activities such as yoga, light exercises, and improving the relationship with your partner can help alleviate postpartum depression / Photo by Evgeny Atamanenko via Shutterstock

 

If your partner or loved one is having postpartum depression, Dr. Eisner has an easy suggestion: let them sleep. She said, “Sleep disturbances are implicated in mood disorders, whether it’s sleeping too much, or not enough. Restorative sleep will help new moms better manage their moods and work through their anxiety and depression.”

How to help your wife or partner

If your wife or partner is experiencing postpartum depression, acknowledge her feelings. Let her talk about what she is feeling without any judgment. By simply being there, it is a big help. 

Rest is very important. Let your wife/partner take breaks and have some me time. Help your wife or partner in caring for the baby and in doing household chores. Do it without waiting for her to ask. 

Be patient when your wife/partner has a low sex drive. Depression can affect such a thing so she might not be in the mood. Be affectionate but don't push the issue if she is not ready.

 

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