When thinking of a newborn baby, many people envision a picture-perfect image of a smiling, glowing mother side-by-side with her child. While countless women experience the joy and happiness that motherhood brings, nearly 80% will experience something called the “Baby Blues,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Unfortunately, 15% will experience something much more severe, called Postpartum Depression (PPD), which is an extreme variation of the baby blues.
Explore our guide to postpartum depression by learning the difference between PPD and the baby blues, signs and symptoms, causes, treatment options, risks and prevention, and when to see a provider.
The Difference Between Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
The baby blues are common among new mothers and attributed to the dramatic hormonal changes that occur following childbirth. Symptoms include feeling sad, unhappy, worried, tired, or fatigued. These emotions generally go away within one to two weeks of birth.
Postpartum Depression is a severe form of the baby blues which typically starts around 1-3 weeks after delivery, but symptoms can last much longer. PPD makes it difficult for women to care for their child or get through their daily routines. Without proper treatment, postpartum depression can last for several months or even years.
Causes of Postpartum Depression
According to the Nation Institute of Mental Health, “PPD does not have a single cause, but likely results from a combination of multiple physical and emotional factors.”
During pregnancy, a woman’s hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone are incredibly high and decrease rapidly after giving birth. Because of quick chemical changes within the brain, it can trigger mood swings and other emotions. Other physical factors may include lack of sleep, low thyroid levels, or an underlying medical condition.
Beyond the physical aspects one faces after childbirth, a new mother is also adjusting to life with her new baby. And emotional stressors such as social isolation, financial burdens, health issues, and relationship problems can contribute to postpartum depression.
The Signs and Symptoms
The main difference between PPD and the baby blues is the severity of the symptoms and how long they last. Some of the symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Severe mood swings
- Extreme exhaustion
- Anger or rage
- A sense of hopelessness or emptiness
- Crying for no apparent reason
- Oversleeping or unable to sleep
- Loss of interest in activities
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Trouble bonding with the baby
- Thoughts of harming oneself, another person, or the baby
If you or your loved one is thinking of self-harm or suicide, seek help immediately.
- Call your provider
- Call 911
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)
- Go to your nearest emergency room
Postpartum depression is a mental health condition and can be treated. There are a few different treatment options for women suffering from PPD.
- Counseling: Therapy involves speaking one-on-one with a mental health professional. There are two types of therapy: 1) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps recognize negative thoughts and behaviors, and 2) Interpersonal Therapy helps identify problematic personal relationships. Both of these counseling options are effective in treating PPD.
- Medication: Another treatment is medication which may include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics—all of which affect your mood.
Risks and Prevention
While postpartum depression can affect women regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status, some women are at higher risk because they have these risk factors:
- Symptoms of depression or mental illness before pregnancy
- Symptoms of depression during pregnancy
- Symptoms of depression after previous pregnancies
- A family history of mental illness
- A sudden life event during or after pregnancy such as job loss, death, domestic violence, or disease.
- Medical complications during pregnancy
- Lack of emotional support
- Alcohol or drug abuse problems
- Uneasy feelings about the pregnancy
There are many different ways to help prevent postpartum depression. Below are four tips to follow in your daily life after childbirth:
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Get enough rest
- Open lines of communication
- Find the support you need
Don’t forget to speak up about your feelings with your family and friends, as well as your provider. If you’re looking for added support, check out your local support groups that offer an open, safe environment for women to discuss their feelings and understand you’re not alone.
When to See a Doctor?
There is often a big adjustment when a child is born, but knowing the signs and symptoms related to postpartum depression is essential for new mothers, their family, and their friends.
Postpartum depression is a medical condition and is not your fault. Life can be stressful, but sharing your feelings with your provider can help. Seek treatment with your provider before your 6-week postpartum checkup if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms. Metro OBGYN is dedicated to helping you receive the support you need as a new mother!
Request an appointment with your provider to address any feelings or physical symptoms that come with being a new mother. By sharing your emotions, you’ll be creating a positive impact on your mental health and well-being.