Baby Blues & Postpartum Depression

baby_bluesAlthough the birth of a child is supposed to be a happy time, for some women it may be just the opposite as they are suddenly overcome by feelings of depression or anxiety.

Baby Blues

The most common form of postpartum depression is the well known “baby blues.” This occurs in the first weeks following the birth of the baby and lasts only a few days. The mother finds herself feeling sad, irritable or confused and has crying spells, difficulty sleeping or loss of appetite. Symptoms are most intense within the first week after childbirth. This occurs in 10 -16% of new mothers and resolves without treatment. The cause is suspected to be hormonal (similar to premenstrual syndrome.)

What can I do if this is happening to me?
If the symptoms last only for a few days, you need only to let it pass. If you feel like crying – cry. It helps if your spouse or family members recognize that this is a normal phase. Insensitive comments such as “Just snap out of it” or “How can you be sad with such a beautiful baby?” do not help the situation. If the symptoms last longer than two weeks, please notify your obstetrician. Prolonged baby blues may need to be treated with medication.

Postpartum Depression

This form of post-childbirth depression is less common than the “baby blues” but can affect 10 – 20% of new mothers in some form during the first year. The severity of the depression varies from mild to severe. The symptoms of postpartum depression usually begin one to four months after delivery and may last up to one year if left untreated.

Let’s take a closer look:

What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
The symptoms of postpartum depression include the well-known signs of general depression. These include: overwhelming sadness, crying spells, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping and an inability to feel happy with the new baby or with other aspects of life. Other symptoms can be the symptoms of anxiety. These symptoms are more subtle but may include a sense of overwhelming uneasiness or panic attacks. When this happens, the person usually describes a feeling of impending doom, often accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath, and/or rapid heart rate.

What causes postpartum depression?
The cause of postpartum depression is not well known. It is most likely related to a combination of hormonal and psychological factors. The stress of caring for a new baby only adds to the problem, as does sleep deprivation.

What can I do if this is happening to me?
Many women do not seek help because they are ashamed that they are not experiencing the “joys of motherhood.” These women hide their symptoms, but continue to feel miserable inside. This disorder is treatable, and it is important to treat. Studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics have shown that newborns (and infants) are affected by a mother’s chronically depressed mood. If you experience any of the symptoms listed or you just don’t feel “right,” let your physician know. Tell your obstetrician, family practitioner or pediatrician.

Where can I find more information on postpartum depression?
(800) 944-4PPD
Postpartum Support International
(805) 967-7636