You have just brought home your baby. Everyone at the hospital seeing you off and at home welcoming you back is ecstatic. Your family and friends alike are beside themselves with joy and excitement upon seeing you carrying your newborn.
But for some reason, you just don’t seem to share their excitement. You chalk it up to exhaustion. After all, you’ve just given birth and haven’t had a decent night of sleep. You’ll feel better in the morning, right?
Fast forward to several days since you got back home, and you just can’t shake off the feeling. You feel a lump in your throat. You begin to start thinking, “Is there something wrong with me?” You start comparing yourself to the moms in all the movies you’ve seen. You’re supposed to be joyful and excited, but why aren’t you?
There are two possible reasons for what you are feeling right now. It can either be just what is called the “baby blues,” or it can be postpartum depression, which is something that is much more serious.
In this article, we’ll define both, and differentiate one from the other so you will know what steps you need to take if ever you are undergoing either one.
But first, a reminder: be gentle with yourself.
Let’s go back to the movie mom comparison above. You have to remember that this is real life. In movies, of course, the actresses have to act happy. But in reality, moms like yourself who have just given birth recently actually often feel moody and overwhelmed. And this emotional roller coaster that you suddenly find yourself in is actually more common than you think.
According to a study, as much as 80% of new moms experience a short-term low mood a few days after giving birth. The reason for this is that aside from your hormone levels dropping and you getting insufficient sleep, you may also be taking in all the changes that have happened in your life in the past months and the changes ahead such as changes in your daily routine and identity.
In short, it happens, and while you should strive to feel better and do something about it (as well as find out what it really is), you also shouldn’t feel that you’re a bad mom if you experience it.
Defining baby blues and postpartum depression.
So again, as mentioned above, you might either be experiencing baby blues or postpartum depression. What are those, exactly?
Well, baby blues are defined as feelings of sadness that pop up in the first few days after having a baby. It can affect anyone, no matter the race, income, or education level. This feeling can last for up to two weeks, but it does go away on its own after.
Postpartum depression, on the other hand, is an actual medical condition that women can get after giving birth. It’s a mix of strong feelings of sadness, worry, and tiredness. If you get this condition, you may find it hard to take care of yourself and your newborn. Postpartum depression can happen any time after you deliver the baby and will needed treatment, as it is a signifcant health problem.
How do you tell the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression?
The main indicators between the two are the length of time and severity of emotions experienced. While there are overlapping emotions, as mentioned above, baby blues goes away on its own after a week or two.
On the other hand, the emotions felt by moms going through postpartum depression do not resolve on their own and actually become more severe. The symptoms are more persistent and will last indefinitely unless the required treatment is administered.
Also, postpartum depression may occur within the first year after the birth of your baby, unlike baby blues which occur days after the delivery of your baby.
Recognizing baby blues
You will feel a lot of emotions that seem to swing wildly within minutes as you go through baby blues. Here’s a common scenario: You are looking at your baby sleeping peacefully on the cot and you feel so much love bursting from your chest. Then your gaze turns to the cluttered baby diapers around the room and then you start to cry in frustration, feeling like you’re a lousy mom for letting all that mess happen.
Aside from these wild emotional swings, other signs may include you feeling irritable, overwhelmed, and anxious for reasons you cannot understand. You may also be feeling impatient and restless and from time to time, you will cry for no reason.
But after a week or two, you will notice that these occurrences happen less. You will still feel exhausted, but you now generally have your normal disposition back.
If you feel that you have baby blues, try to get as much sleep as you can. Have healthier food choices. Go out for a walk or a jog. The fresh air and sunshine will do wonders for your state of mind. And do not hesitate to ask help or support from your family and friends.
Recognizing postpartum depression
Postpartum depression can feel a lot like the baby blues at first. But the key indicator is that it has been more than two weeks since you gave birth. And the feelings won’t go away. In fact, from things looking bleak, you now feel hopeless. This is on top of feeling sad, worthless, and insecure in your role as a new mom. You may also be having anxiety and panic attacks and an overwhelming feeling of doom.
You feel that your baby is anxious and cries more when you are around. You can’t remember things that you should be doing like confirming a doctor’s appointment. You begin to resent all these negative emotions that seem to go on and on. You have difficulty understanding why others around you are so cheerful and you take it against them. You feel isolated and angry, and shun socialization as you’d rather stay inside the room.
You have lost interest in doing things you previously enjoyed doing. You eat sparingly and sleep even less. You become overly sensitive to what other people say about you and have noticed that your relationshipw with family and friends seem to be strained.
If you are feeling any of these for more than two weeks, seek the help of your doctor or health care provider. You may already be experiencing postpartum depression and a medical professional needs to confirm that diagnosis so you can seek treatment. And don’t worry, there are a variety of treatment options to help yourself climb out of postpartum depression. Your doctor may prescribe medications, psychotherapy, physical activity, and self-help tools such as yoga and meditation.
Take care of you and your baby – get Northeast Doulas.
Whether you have postpartum depression or baby blues, one thing is for sure: you’re going to need help taking care of your baby as you go through whichever condition you have. Contact us at Northeast Doulas. We will provide you with judgement-free, unconditional support that you need and deserve to recover.
We look forward to hearing from you!