Feeling a little off since now that you new baby is here? Feeling like you are just not your old self anymore? Wondering if what you are experiencing is the notorious "Baby Blues" or something more?
You may have confided in your OB or other healthcare professional about how you are feeling and was told it's normal to feel this way. Truth is, somewhere between 80-90 percent of new moms feel like their emotions are running away from them in the first couple of weeks after giving birth. This is largely linked to a drop in hormones that helped sustain a health pregnancy. Since hormones and emotions are closely linked, changes in mood or feelings of sadness can be expected.
However, if this persists for greater then 2-3 weeks after birth, it is likely more than just the baby blues. It could be something more serious such as postpartum depression which is experienced by roughly 1 in 5 women or 20% of new moms.
Unfortunately, over-normalizing the baby blues can prevent women with more serious symptoms from seeking out the help they might need. When something like this is viewed as the norm, some women might downplay their symptoms, thinking everything is perfectly normal.
That’s why it’s so important to understand your symptoms and accept them for what they are. And it's important to note that if you have postpartum depression, it is not something you caused or a flaw as a mother. It is actually the most common complication of child birth.
So, how can you better acknowledge the symptoms you’re experiencing?
Symptoms of the Baby Blues
The baby blues are rarely severe and tend to occur 2-3 days after giving birth and may continue up to 2 weeks postpartum. Yet, that doesn’t mean they’re easy to get through. Symptoms may include:
After the ups and downs during pregnancy, these feelings and behaviors might seem to be more of the same. Still, it can be difficult for any woman to go through, especially when trying to handle a new baby.
Often, these thoughts and feelings last for a short time each day, and they won’t usually keep you from living your life the way you would. Most women feel back to their normal selves within a couple of weeks.
Symptoms of PPD
Postpartum depression (PPD) is far more serious, even if the symptoms look similar to the baby blues at first. The symptoms occur frequently, are more intense, last longer and usually begin to interfere with your ability to manage every day tasks. Symptoms may have developed during pregnancy or within the first few weeks after giving birth but can also have an onset anytime during the first year after birth. Some of the most common signs of PPD include:
Depressed mood or severe mood swings
Difficulty bonding with your baby
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
Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
Intense irritability and anger
Fear that you're not a good mother
Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
Severe anxiety and panic attacks
Feeling like your family would be better off without you
Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
As you might expect, it doesn’t take much for these symptoms to become completely overwhelming. As a result, it’s easy for them to start to take over your life.
The Dangers of Normalizing the Baby Blues
Whether it is the baby blues or PPD, there is no shame in reaching out for help. Postpartum depression is common and very treatable. Left untreated, postpartum depression can turn into chronic depression that is much harder to treat.
Because so many women do experience some sadness or negative thoughts/feelings after having a baby, it has become easier to push down the feelings that might be more serious. When women are consistently told that the baby blues are normal, they might actually be dealing with PPD symptoms and not recognizing the difference.
PPD can be debilitating, and it can actually keep you from being the mother you truly want to be. By telling yourself it’s just a normal part of the post-pregnancy process—because so many people tell you that the baby blues happen to almost everyone—you could be putting yourself, or your baby at risk.
How to Overcome PPD
It’s so important to recognize your symptoms if you’re struggling at all after giving birth. You know your mind and body better than anyone. So, if something feels “off” or you’re worried about your mental or emotional health, seek out professional help as quickly as possible.
Even if it turns out you do have the baby blues and not PPD, the support will be invaluable regardless.
Every woman experiences these symptoms differently. Recognizing how they appear within yourself can make it easier to determine what you’re dealing with. We will work through them so you can start to get rid of some of that heaviness and enjoy the beautiful benefits of being a new mother.
If at any point you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, immediately seek help from your partner or loved ones in taking care of your baby and call 911 or your local emergency assistance number to get help. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use their webchat on suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.
If you’re worried that you’re struggling with postpartum depression, please feel free to reach out to me. You’re not alone in the way you’re feeling. You don’t have to “push down” those negative symptoms or tell yourself it’s all normal. To learn more about how counseling can help you overcome postpartum depression, please click here.
I also offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.
COMING SOON! A workshop for couples who are thinking about or planning to have a baby, who are expecting a baby or who have children already. Based on years of research and experience and developed by the Gottman Institute, this 12 hour workshop is designed to repair communication skills and jump start your relationship with your partner. For more information, please click here.
Jennifer Perera is a mom, spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over a decade’s worth of experience in mental health. She has a private practice in New Jersey, with locations in Cranford and Princeton. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual, group and couples counseling. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with a pregnancy loss or infertility. Her other passion is travelling to different parts of the world and her goal is to vacation in a different locale every time. She also has a great fondness for cats!