The Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
Updated: Dec 23, 2017
Motherhood exalts the beauty of childbirth and the joys of a newborn, but many new mothers fail to mention another common reality: postpartum depression.
Having a baby is an incredibly draining experience, both physically and emotionally, for a woman. After childbirth, the body changes rapidly. Hormone levels drop and the body begins to repair itself, whether from a vaginal birth or a caesarean. Add to that the new responsibilities and pressures of having a newborn, plus the exhaustion of little to no sleep, and it’s no surprise that many women experience negative emotions after the joyous birth of a baby.
People often confuse the “baby blues” with postpartum depression, even using the two terms interchangeably. The baby blues is the least severe form of postpartum depression (PPD) and typically only lasts a few days to a week or two. Some of the signs and symptoms include inexplicable sadness, mood swings, anxiety, impatience, irritability, weepiness, poor concentration, and trouble sleeping (even when baby is sleeping).
Postpartum depression, on the other hand, persists over time and includes more intense symptoms: insomnia, loss of appetite, fierce irritability/anger, extreme exhaustion, loss of interest in things that previously brought joy, severe mood swings, feelings of shame or guilt, withdrawal from family and friends, and difficulty bonding with baby.
I know from experience that the signs and symptoms of baby blues/PPD don’t always neatly fit into one category or the other. After the birth of my first child, I experienced the baby blues, but my symptoms did not improve in a couple of weeks as expected. Thankfully, I had no trouble bonding with my son, but my uncontrollable mood swings, fits of crying, poor concentration, difficulty sleeping, and general sadness were overwhelming.
My OB/GYN prescribed me a low-dose antidepressant, assuring me it was safe while nursing, but I was hesitant to take it nonetheless. I worked on improving my mood the best way I knew how: I started exercising again, continued eating healthy, and enlisted the help of my husband with nighttime feedings so that I wasn’t waking every 2 hours all night, every night. It took a couple of additional months, but finally my mood stabilized. For me, I know it was a combination of hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and stress over being a first-time mom. I’m hoping that after the birth of my second, I won’t encounter the same issues, but at least this time I know that the mild depression will subside over time.
Have you struggled with postpartum depression or baby blues? What was your experience? Please share below!
Photos by Lindsey Brown Photography.