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Is it just Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?

You have a new baby, and you're not feeling like yourself emotionally. How can you tell if you have a normal case of the baby blues or the more serious postpartum depression?

The baby you have anxiously awaited has just arrived. You should be on top of the world. So why are you so sad? It’s not clear, but you are not alone.  As many as 80% of women have some mood difficulties after giving birth. They feel alone, disconnected, upset, scared or unloving toward their baby…and, of course, guilty for having these feelings.

For the majority of women, the symptoms are mild to moderate and go away on their own. However, about 10-20% of new mothers experience a more debilitating mood disorder called postpartum depression. So how do you know if what you’re experiencing is common baby blues or something more serious?

The “baby blues” are a temporary state of heightened emotions that usually peaks 3-5 days after giving birth and can last for about 2 weeks. Indications of baby blues include, crying easily, difficulty sleeping, irritability, sadness and edginess. Baby blues are not considered an illness, and do not get in the way of a woman’s ability to care for her baby. The tendency to develop postpartum blues is not connected to a previous mental illness and is not brought on by stress.

On the other hand, postpartum depression is a serious illness, and it requires the mother to get help.  Postpartum depression  usually occurs within a few months of delivery, but it can develop anytime in the first year.  Risk factors include previous major depression, severe stress, inadequate social supports, and previous premenstrual dysphoric disorder (a severe form of PMS).

Symptoms can include:

  • depressed mood
  • tearfulness
  • inability to enjoy pleasurable activities
  • difficulty sleeping
  • low energy
  • change in appetite
  • suicidal thoughts
  • feelings of inadequacy as a parent
  • feelings of extreme guilt for having the above symptoms

A diagnosis is made when these symptoms are present for a least a week.  Unlike baby blues these symptoms do not resolve on their own, and they do interfere with the ability to function.

If you experience postpartum depression, you may worry about the baby’s health and well-being. You may have negative thoughts about the baby and fears about harming the child (although women who have these thoughts rarely act on them). Postpartum depression impedes a woman’s ability to care for her baby, and if left untreated can create a very dangerous situation for mother and child.  If you suspect that you or a loved one has postpartum depression seek professional help immediately.   You can contact me at 917-721-2257 or Rebekah@rebekahshackney.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Frieda L. Ferrick, MFT May 12, 2012 at 02:53 AM
It is very important for new mothers and their families to have this information. I am glad you are writing about it Rebekah!
Rebekah Shackney May 12, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Thanks for your comment, Frieda!

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