Becoming a mother changes your life. It can be incredible; watching your new baby learn how to smile, getting that first laugh out of them, watching their features develop into familiar versions of you or your partner. The daily snuggles, that new baby smell; there is a lot to be excited about!
The other side of new motherhood can be a bit darker. Your body goes through one of the biggest hormonal shifts a human body can go through, and it goes through it fast. You can experience sleep deprivation, inadequate nutrition and (depending on your support system) might be isolated as well. The first few weeks can be tough emotionally and that’s why a lot of moms experience the “baby blues” during this time. You’ve probably heard the term tossed around, but let’s dive into what it could mean for you.
What makes the baby blues so… blue?
Given the fact that your body is going through a huge hormonal shift, it makes sense that your emotions could be out of whack. About 80% of new moms’ experience some form of baby blues after giving birth. The baby blues can be characterized by mood swings, loss of appetite, and feelings of sadness, overwhelm, or anxiety.
The good news is that you don’t need to worry; you didn’t do anything to cause the baby blues, and you aren’t “wrong” for feeling sad or overwhelmed during this time. You’re experiencing a rapid drop in pregnancy hormones at the same time as a rise in different hormones that produce breast milk. It’s like a hormone tornado in there.
While this sounds daunting, it can be helpful to know that the baby blues tend to last for only around two weeks post-birth. The symptoms don’t tend to be severe and can usually be mitigated without medical intervention by sleeping, asking for help, and engaging in social activities. If you’re noticing the symptoms worsen or last for longer than two weeks, it might be time to head to the doctor for a conversation about postpartum depression.
How to tell if it’s something more than the baby blues
Getting the baby blues can be scary and can cause a new mom to wonder if what she’s experiencing is postpartum depression (PPD). Postpartum depression is clinically and symptomatically no different from general depression, but occurs after giving birth. That means that the symptoms can be severe and worrying for a new mom. Since the feelings you experience can be similar to the baby blues, it’s important to pay attention to the ways that the two differ.
The timeline really matters when trying to understand the difference between the two experiences. If you’re feeling sad and overwhelmed post-birth but you aren’t noticing an improvement after a few weeks, this could be a sign of postpartum depression. Like we talked about above, the baby blues are a short term experience that improve with self-care and time. With PPD, the same solutions are not likely to work.
The symptoms can feel extreme, going beyond sadness and anxiety into suicidal thoughts, excessive feelings of guilt or worthlessness, and changes in weight and/or appetite. These are serious feelings which can be mitigated, so it’s important to reach out for support and communicate what you are going through. Postpartum depression (like any depression) requires treatment, but the first step is admitting to yourself and those around you that you are feeling depressed.
As a new mom, it might feel like you should figure everything out yourself. You might have a voice in the back of your mind telling you that you’re not good enough because you don’t feel happy during this “magical” time of your life. But you aren’t alone, and there are solutions. If you need support please ask for it; talk to your partner, your mom, and most importantly your doctor. And give that baby of yours a big ole’ smooch. You’re doing a wonderful job.
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