The Baby Blues

For the last nine months you have done nothing but anticipate the arrival of your new baby. You have imagined how exciting, fun, and joyful it would be to spend time with her. You couldn’t wait to hold her in your arms. But now that she is here well, things aren’t as great as you thought they would be. If you have been feeling a little bit anxious, nervous, and sad now that baby has arrived, you may be wondering exactly what’s wrong with you. These feelings are actually very common in moms who have just given birth. Known as the “baby blues” this mild change in mood can be distressing, but it is a completely normal part of pregnancy.

What are the Baby Blues?
The baby blues is the affectionate term given to a mild form of depression that occurs after labor and delivery. It’s also known as the postpartum blues, and usually occurs about three or four days after baby has arrived. The baby blues are best described as a general feeling of sadness or anxiety that typically lasts no more than two weeks. The baby blues usually pop up out of the blue and disappear all on their own.

How Common are the Baby Blues?
The baby blues are actually a lot more common then most women think. In fact, between 50% and 80% of all new mothers experience some form of the baby blues in the days after childbirth. It tends to be more common in women who have just given birth to their first child.

What Causes the Baby Blues?
Researchers aren’t 100% sure about what causes the baby blues, however, a variety of factors do seem to be involved.

  • Physical Changes: The physical changes that you undergo in the days after labor and delivery probably have a great deal to do with the mood changes associated with the baby blues. During pregnancy, your body’s hormone levels continuously rise. In fact, your progesterone and estrogen levels were probably up to ten times their pre-pregnancy levels in order to help support fetal development. After labor, your hormone levels begin to drop suddenly, because they are no longer needed to support baby’s growth. And different hormones begin to kick in, allowing you to breastfeed you new little one. These hormonal ups and downs can really take their toll on your emotions.
  • Fatigue: The exhaustion caused by childbirth as well as by the constant care you may be providing your little one also seem to contribute to the baby blues.
  • Anxiety over Baby: Welcoming a new baby into the world can be a very scary thing to do. You may feel overwhelmed with your new responsibilities or you may be worried about how you are going to take on this new role. While these fears are perfectly normal, they can also contribute to the baby blues.

Symptoms Associated With the Baby Blues
Symptoms of the baby blues are usually mild and typically appear in the days immediately following birth. They also tend to clear up on their own within two weeks after birth. Symptoms of depression may include:

  • irritability
  • sadness and crying
  • loneliness
  • feeling overwhelmed or anxious
  • mood swings
  • lack of energy and fatigue

Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?
It is important that you are able to distinguish between the baby blues and postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is a more severe form of depression that can occur in the year following childbirth. Its symptoms are usually intense and last much longer than those of the baby blues. Here is a quick comparison to help you identify which type of depression your are suffering from.

Baby Blues Postpartum Depression
occasional crying or sadness frequent crying and pervasive sadness
lack of energy persistent fatigue
anxiety or nervousness severe anxiety, which may include hyperventilation or panic attacks
disturbed sleep patterns insomnia or hypersomnia
reduced appetite loss of appetite
loneliness loss of interest in regular activities
weight changes
thoughts of self harm or suicide

Dealing with the Baby Blues
If your symptoms seem to be those of the baby blues, there are some things that you can do to help boost your mood.

  • Express your feelings to those around you.
  • Ask for support from friends and family members.
  • Get lots of rest.
  • Prioritize. You don’t have to do everything right away.
  • Speak with your partner about dividing the parenting responsibilities.
  • Take time out for yourself. Go out with friends, watch a movie, or just take a relaxing bath.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet.

If your symptoms seem to be getting worse or have lasted longer than a couple of weeks, it may be time to consult with your health care practitioner. She may be able to suggest a depression treatment that will help to alleviate your symptoms.

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