Having a baby can be a joyous, wonderful experience. At least that is what women are usually led to believe. What isn’t common knowledge is how difficult the postpartum time can be. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, sleep deprived or anxious. Some women may even become clinically depressed, aka postpartum depression. Because we haven’t “normalized” the real postpartum experience, many mothers feel alone when they have difficult experiences after their baby’s birth.
Postpartum depression may sometimes mistakenly be interchanged with the term “baby blues.” These two are not the same thing. One is considered a medical condition that may need treatment, while the other reflects the natural course of the postpartum time. “Baby blues” is a blanket term for the rollercoaster of emotions moms experience post-baby. Caused by hormones, lack of sleep and so many new responsibilities, it’s a normal part of getting used to the new job of motherhood.
As a woman’s hormones plummet back to normal levels following birth, the so-called “baby blues” may include mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, crying, reduced concentration, appetite problems and trouble sleeping (even without the crying infant). These symptoms usually last anywhere from one day to a few weeks after baby is born. Even Mom’s thyroid hormones may decrease at this time, as every part of her body works to get back to normal.
When do the “blues” become full black?
The differences between symptoms of a moderate case of baby blues and a mild case of postpartum depression may be slight. In general, postpartum depression can mean severe mood swings, excessive crying, difficulty bonding with the baby, withdrawal from family and friends, drastic changes in appetite, reduced interest or pleasure, hopelessness, severe anxiety and panic attacks, thoughts of harming themselves or the baby and recurrent suicidal thinking. These symptoms are generally more pronounced and can last for months, especially without help.
If you suspect you or someone you love has postpartum depression but worry you’re dramatizing simple baby blues, always err on the side of caution. Left untreated, postpartum depression, like any other depression, can have a devastating impact on a family. Speaking to your primary care physician, psychiatrist or OBGYN/midwife is the first step.
Where can you go for help?
Hancock Regional Hospital offers a variety of support groups for postpartum mothers. These groups offer help with depression worries, socialization, and answers to questions or concerns about all things parenting. The Beyond the Bump Mom’s Group for new and experienced mothers meets every Tuesday. The facilitator team consists of lactation consultants, social workers, and nurse practitioners (and scales are available for baby weight checks). The Bump Club is a social group for expectant mothers that meets on the second Tuesday of each month. Additionally, new mothers can call the Breastfeeding Support Line at (317) 468-4397 with any specific questions about infant feeding.
If you prefer to talk anonymously, contact SAMHSA through its website or call its national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
When a new little bundle of joy enters this world, it’s not without a whole lot of work on the part of the parents. Sometimes, this work can be overlooked because of the excitement of a new family member. Symptoms of the baby blues during a time when everything is in transition is completely normal, and most women feel some shade of it during their postpartum journey. However, when those symptoms turn into postpartum depression, it’s time to seek help. Don’t hesitate to get the help needed to become strong mentally, physically, and emotionally post-baby!