Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

Having a baby is a happy time for most women.  But often some women feel sad, afraid, or moody.   Mood swings after the birth of your baby are not uncommon. But some of the feelings you experience after childbirth may not match how you felt while pregnant and certainly not how you thought you would feel after your girl or boy baby was born.

Baby blues affect about 70-80% of women after the birth of their baby.  Baby blues are the least severe form of postpartum depression.  Many women feel unsure about the transition to motherhood and often don’t even know how to put the thoughts into words.  Becoming a mother can be both exciting and stressful.  So talking about how you are feeling about the changes and challenges of being a new mother are a very positive way to cope with the blues.

About 2-3 days after giving birth or earlier (depending on how your labor went) you may begin to feel anxious and upset.  You may cry for no reason, have trouble sleeping, eating, making choices and question whether or not you can handle caring for your baby.  Other symptoms of the Baby Blues include: irritability, fatigue, restlessness and trouble concentrating. Baby blues may be related to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and after your baby is born.  Hormonal changes along with the amount of adjustment that comes along with the birth of your baby such as changes in your normal sleep patterns, disruption in the family routine and emotions you experience with childbirth can all contribute to how you feel. Symptoms of the baby blues usually last from as little as a few minutes to a few hours each day and should lesson and go away within a couple of weeks after delivery.

Taking care of you is the best way to decrease the symptoms of the “baby blues.” There are several different ways that you can care of yourself if you are having the “baby blues.”

First it important to maintain a well-balanced diet and get adequate rest; when your baby is napping, take a nap too. Having a new baby may cause you not to eat correctly; limit the caffeine and junk food which can make mood swings more pronounced.

Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings.

Take your baby out in the stroller to enjoy fresh air and life outside the confines of your four walls. I used to go to the park and spend time with other mothers who needed to get out of the house; in the winter months I would trek over to the mall. Sometimes just a different view for a short period of time can make a huge difference.

Ask for help–help with meals, other children, getting into a “routine”, or any help that allows you to focus on the joy of having a new baby and not just the pressure of juggling it all.  Take some time to soak in the tub and give yourself a facial.

Don’t expect perfection in the first few weeks. Give yourself time to heal from birth, to adjust to your new “role” and for feeding and sleeping routines to settle in.

There is nothing instinctive about becoming a mother.  No matter how many books you have read or videos you’ve watched or classes you have taken, learning mothering skills takes time and patience.   Bonding with your baby takes time.  Keep in mind, that babies have distinct personalities; some infants are easier to care for than others.  Rather than get angry with your baby, take time to learn about your baby. Remember your baby is adjusting to life outside of your womb.

It is also very important to remember that you are not alone.  If your symptoms last longer than fourteen days it could be an indication of a more serious condition, such as postpartum depression. Be honest with your obstetrician or healthcare provider at all of your follow up appointments. Remember you are not going to shock them with your feelings. They speak with postpartum women all the time and can evaluate how you are doing if you are honest about what you are feeling and thinking. Tell your doctor if you are afraid you might neglect or hurt your baby.  Your doctor can refer you to experts in treating postpartum depression and there are hotlines and support groups available for women with postpartum depression.

 

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