This article about the differences between postpartum depression and baby blues is written by Dr. Jim Betoni
After the birth of a baby, a new mother’s emotion can change nearly every day. The emotions can range from excitement to sadness to joy to anxiety and everything in between. About ten percent of newly delivered mothers get some form of postpartum depression. Postpartum Depression (PPD) and/or Baby Blues is very common for women who have just delivered their baby. What is the difference between PPD and baby blues?
Baby blues are feelings of mild depression that some mothers get during the first few week after delivery. Usually, the depressed mood lasts a couple of weeks and then goes away. They feel anxious, sad, irritable, exhausted, overwhelmed or inadequate. They may have headaches and crying episodes. There is no magic treatment. Get as much rest as possible. Especially helpful is a period of four hours of uninterrupted sleep, this can be at any time during the 24 hour day. Ask for help from family and friends who are willing to watch your baby during your four-hour “time out” nap.
In contrast, postpartum depression is an intense feeling of sadness, anxiety or despair that affects mothers after their deliveries. The overwhelming sad thoughts prevent these women from functioning and at times, caring for their baby. The feelings typically come on gradually during the first six months after giving birth. They do not usually go away with some form of treatment or counseling.
There are no clear causes, but a few things are known to trigger PPD in some women which can include:
- Physical change – after the placenta is delivered the levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones drop very low.
- Emotional changes – after a long labor and delivery, a woman may get overly tired. Taking care of a new baby may be frightening. There may be a feeling of losing control; these emotional stresses can lead to depression.
- Lastly, lifestyle changes – a demanding baby, breastfeeding, caring for other children, exhaustion, financial worries or lack of emotional support can lead to depression. Postpartum depression can occur after the birth of a first child however it is more common with the delivery of a second child.
Postpartum depression must be treated, so what can new mothers do?
Talk to your healthcare provider if you have a feeling of depression. Your provider may assess your depression by using a depression-screening questionnaire. This simple test may help determine if you have baby blues or a more severe depression. If it is left untreated it can affect the relationship between the mother and her new baby. Treatment and recovery from PPD depend on the individual, her unique needs, and her provider. PPD is commonly managed with counseling, anti-depression medication, and/or hormones. With a good and mutually accepted treatment plan, the symptoms usually go away within a few months. Coping with the demands of motherhood is usually easier after treatment and should help women become better mothers.
About the author
Dr. Jim Betoni’s journey towards writing The Pregnancy Power Workbook began in 1967 when his mother gave birth to his little sister; who was born with Down syndrome. In an era when children with her condition were put into homes for children with special needs, his parents lovingly chose to parent and raise her in their home. As the five-year-old big brother, young Jim soon became the family expert on chromosomes and learned that his sister had an extra one. His first-hand experiences of living with and caring for his sister who suffered through many health conditions played a major role in inspiring him to pursue a career in health care.