How to Tell the Difference Between the Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

For most women, the postpartum period is an emotional time. There are the highs, like those first wonderful baby snuggles and the first time you and baby really lock eyes. And there are the lows, like when you wonder if you’re cut out to be a mom or whether you’ll make it through the exhaustion of another sleepless night.

baby blue and postpartum depression
Image via Unsplash/ Anthony Tran

If the weeks are ticking by and your lows are outnumbering your highs you may begin to wonder if you’re experiencing the baby blues, which are normal and common, or postpartum depression which, while common, can be much harder for women to parent through. 

The term ‘baby blues’ refers to the dip in mood that over 80% of new mothers experience in the weeks after giving birth. Having a baby is a big change and, in addition to the rapid shifting of hormones that happens in the weeks after birth, you’re probably also exhausted and facing a whole set of challenges you never faced before becoming a parent. Often the weepy feelings or rapid drops in mood associated with the baby blues begins when baby is a day or two old and lasts through the baby’s first week or two of life. 

If you’re experiencing the baby blues your mood likely shifts quickly from happiness to sadness and back again. If it is just the blues your mood begins to stabilize and even out by the time baby is a couple of weeks old. You still might feel stressed, a little worried, or a little sad about missing out on life as it was before but your feelings are temporary, pass with time, and don’t interfere with your ability to take care of your baby or yourself. 

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If your feelings are more extreme or your mood swings last longer than the first couple of weeks of baby’s life, you might be experiencing postpartum depression. Postpartum depression impacts about 10% of new mothers and, while it’s treatable, it can be tough for women to identify within themselves. 

Some clues that you might be struggling with postpartum depression include:

  • You feel hopeless or sad most or all of the time
  • You don’t feel like you’re bonding with your baby
  • You don’t think you’re doing a good job as a mother
  • You’re having trouble taking care of your baby or yourself due to your feelings of sadness or despair

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above it’s important for you to know that postpartum depression is very treatable and that women who seek treatment often start feeling better sooner than they expected. 

If you suspect that you might be experiencing postpartum depression you should reach out to your doctor right away. Your doctor will help you determine a plan of action that will get you on the road to feeling better as soon as possible!

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How to Tell the Difference Between the Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. Julia lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. You can find more of her work at JuliaPelly.com ... More

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