Having a newborn baby is one of the greatest experiences of a parents life but it can also be one of the most stressful. Newborn babies are an exciting, joyful and wonderful addition to the family but as anyone can tell you they are also a lot of work. Sometimes not everyone is fully prepared for all the lost sleep, the tiredness, the schedule changes and the feeling of being a little overwhelmed. This is all perfectly normal and natural. However when these feelings become heightened and mothers are unable to bond with their baby or don’t take pleasure in day to day activities or even find that they always have a feeling of anxiety, sadness or anger then this may be a sign of postpartum depression.
The baby blues
Just after birth many new mothers will experience a phenomenon called the baby blues when they’ll notice that their emotions can run very high, they get tearful quite easily and can go from one mood to the next in just an instant. This is extremely common and is caused by the changing hormone levels in the body as it recovers from the pregnancy. The baby blues usually resolve quickly and tend to last for no more than 1-2 weeks .
Baby blue symptoms include things like mood swings, anxiety, sadness, feeling overwhelmed, crying, reduced concentration or difficulty sleeping.
Because the blues usually come and go in about 2 weeks it is not a condition that requires any input from a healthcare professional and once the post-pregnancy hormones have had a chance to settle down, mothers will notice that they feel back to their normal selves.
On the other end of the spectrum to baby blues is a condition called postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can affect any woman after childbirth . Mothers with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that may make it difficult for them to complete daily care activities for themselves or for others (4).
Symptoms of postpartum depression
At first, postpartum depression may be mistaken for the baby blues but the main difference between them is that the baby blues usually go away on their own after about 2 weeks. Postpartum depression however does not go away that quickly and instead its sufferers may experience symptoms that are more intense such as the following :
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Difficulty bonding with your baby or feelings of not being a good mother
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Excessive crying
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Women experiencing some or all of these symptoms should seek advice from their healthcare provider or see their Doctor immediately. The diagnosis of postpartum depression can only be made from a medical professional and it is extremely important that all women (or the partners and family members of new mothers) who they suspect might have postpartum depression speak to a medical professional as soon as possible.
Signs that it’s time to get medical help
Women feeling depressed after the birth of the baby may be reluctant or embarrassed to admit that they need some help but postpartum depression is a very common condition and with the right treatment most women tend to have a good outcome.
Mothers may feel embarrassed to admit they have some of the symptoms of postpartum depression but postpartum depression is not a flaw or weakness and is not caused by anything the mother has done or not done. In fact the causes of postpartum depression are not completely understood and it is important to keep in mind that it can affect any woman regardless of age, race, ethnicity, or economic status.
Treatment for postpartum depression
Treatment for postpartum depression can come in the form of talking therapies, medication or different types of counseling which may help address other things like family or interpersonal relationships that may be contributing to postpartum depression.
Without treatment, postpartum depression can last for months or years and lead to other health complications in the future so it very important for women who suspect they have it or those around them that suspect a new mother may be suffering from postpartum depression to seek medical advice immediately.
1,2) Mayo Clinic. Post partum depression. August 2015.
3, 4) National Institute of Health. Post partum depression facts. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.