What are baby blues?

Dr. Polly Dunn, PhD
Psychology Specialist

In the days and weeks following childbirth, women are especially prone to the baby blues. The baby blues usually subside in about a month, but can include symptoms like tearfulness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed by your increased responsibilities. You will probably continue to feel joy and happiness about the birth of your child, but feelings of sadness creep in as well.

For the majority of women, the baby blues will go away on their own after a few weeks. However, for about 10-20% of women these symptoms will develop into something more serious, postpartum depression. Unlike the baby blues, the symptoms of postpartum depression are more severe and longer lasting and may interfere with your ability to take care of your new baby. Without help, mothers can be left feeling depressed, down, and hopeless for months after the birth of their child. A small percentage of women with postpartum depression may even experience thoughts of harming themselves or their baby.

If you’re a new mom struggling with feelings of depression, there are number of things you can do to help yourself begin to feel better. First, try to spend some time with other adults who care about you. Talk with your spouse, friends, and family about how they can help you with the baby and don’t be afraid to tell them about your feelings. Next, make sure to get as much rest as possible. Try to nap during the day when your baby does so that you can make up for those guaranteed sleepless nights.

Just as you make a routine out of bathing, dressing, and feeding your baby, makes sure that you give yourself a normal routine of showering, getting dressed, and eating at regular intervals. Getting out of the house with your baby is also a good way to improve your mood. You can go for a walk, visit a friend, or even venture out to the store for a much needed change of scenery.

Last but not least, talk to your doctor about your symptoms of depression. Your obstetrician is always available to answer your questions and talk with you about treatment options. There are medications that your doctor can prescribe to treat postpartum depression, many of which are approved for use while breastfeeding. In addition, individual therapy provided by a licensed psychologist or licensed professional counselor is an effective treatment for postpartum depression, especially when combined with medication.

After childbirth you may feel sad, weepy, and overwhelmed for a few days. Many new mothers have the "baby blues" after giving birth. Changing hormones, anxiety about caring for the baby, and lack of sleep all affect your emotions.

Be patient with yourself. These feelings are normal and usually go away quickly. But if sadness lasts more than 2 weeks, go see your doctor. Don't wait until you postpartum visit to do so. You might have a serious but treatable condition called postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can happen any time within the first year after birth.

Signs of postpartum depression include:

Call 911 or your doctor if you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby!

     • Feeling restless or irritable
     • Feeling sad, depressed, or crying a lot
     • Having no energy
     • Having headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations (the heart being fast and feeling like it is skipping beats), numbness, or hyperventilation (fast and shallow breathing)
     • Not being able to sleep, being very tired, or both
     • Not being able to eat and weight loss
     • Overeating and weight gain
     • Trouble focusing, remembering, or making decisions
     • Being overly worried about the baby
     • Not having any interest in the baby
     • Feeling worthless and guilty
     • Having no interest or getting no pleasure from activities like sex and socializing
     • Thoughts of harming your baby or yourself

Some women don't tell anyone about their symptoms because they feel embarrassed or guilty about having these feelings at a time when they think they should be happy. Don't let this happen to you! Postpartum depression can make it hard to take care of your baby. Infants with mothers with postpartum depression can have delays in learning how to talk. They can have problems with emotional bonding. Your doctor can help you feel better and get back to enjoying your new baby.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

The baby blues is a relatively normal emotional response after giving birth. After giving birth most women are happy. But as her hormones re-adjust to a non-pregnant state the woman may become irritable, cry for no reason, feel sad or confused, have difficulty concentrating and sleeping or a change in appetite. This is a self-limiting condition known as the baby blues or postpartum blues. The baby blues usually occur about three to five days after birth and resolve within approximately 10 day. If the woman’s feelings of sadness, inability to sleep, appetite change, or irritability last more than two weeks or if the woman is unable to function in her role, the woman may be experiencing post-partum depression, which is a serious condition and needs referral to a healthcare provider.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.