Knowing the difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression will help you figure out the best way to feel better.
- The baby blues occur a few days after giving birth and are very common.
- The baby blues will improve or go away in a few weeks.
- Postpartum depression may occur 2 - 8 weeks after giving birth or later. It is experienced by around 10% of women and is more severe than the baby blues.
- Both conditions are treatable and there is support you can access.
Maternal Mental Health After Giving Birth
It's totally normal to experience low mood, sadness and anxiety after giving birth. These feelings have come to be known as the 'baby blues' and occur as a result of those intense hormone changes we experience after childbirth. Seriously, it almost makes PMS feel like a walk in the park.
What causes this hormonal shift?
During pregnancy, the key hormones oestrogen and progesterone rise steadily to support your baby's growth and the production of their blood and the placenta. Once your baby is born and the placenta is delivered, these hormones drop quickly. This is an essential process, as this hormone shift makes way for the hormones oxytocin and prolactin to kick in for breastfeeding.
However, dramatic hormonal changes like this one can have a big impact on the way you feel, and this is what causes those common baby blues in the early days of motherhood.
As you get to grips with taking care of your baby in those early days, it's also likely that your sleep patterns and your diet will be irregular, which can also exacerbate your symptoms.
What do the baby blues feel like?
Common signs of the baby blues include:
- Bursting into tears for no reason
- Feeling irritable
- Having Low Mood
- Feeling anxious or restless
- Feeling very emotional in general
If you do experience PMS symptoms, you'll know how impactful hormonal changes can be. Like PMS, these feelings are temporary and will regulate in line with your hormones.
That doesn't mean that the baby blues aren't really difficult and troubling. Just know that this will pass, and be kind to yourself as you navigate your new role as mum.
How can I get rid of the baby blues?
The baby blues usually go away on their own, but in the meantime, practicing good self-care will help you feel better. By self-care, we don't mean the buzz phrase that's come to mean 'chuck a face mask on' but truly healthy habits that will help your body recover and replenish, such as:
- Getting enough sleep. Though this is easier said than done, any quick naps you can squeeze in will all help. And trust us when we say this is more important than your laundry pile or the state of your house.
- Eating healthy foods. Getting a nutrient-rich diet will help your body regain strength after giving birth. It's important to get enough iron, omega-3 and healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates to support your recovery. Click here for more postpartum nutrition advice from Nutritionist, Lynda Stretton.
- Get outside. Fresh air and sunlight are great antidotes for low mood. Getting out of your space will also help you move your body and gain a new perspective to help you feel refreshed.
- Move your body. While you're probably feeling low on energy, movement can actually help you feel more energised. We're not talking about intense workouts here, but gentle movement such as walking will support your physical and mental wellbeing.
- Accept help. If you're fortunate enough to have friends and loved ones to support you, let them do their bit. The best things happen when we collaborate and it's true that it really does take a village to raise a child. You're not meant to be able to do this by yourself.
We caught up with Dr Ritz Birah who is a fellow mum and resilience specialist for more advice on maternal mental health and how to take care of yourself during motherhood.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is more intense and longer-lasting than the baby blues. While the baby blues will likely go away after the first couple of weeks, postpartum depression usually occurs around 2 - 8 weeks, but may also occur in the first year after giving birth.
Symptoms of postpartum depression may include:
- low interest in the baby
- uncontrollable crying
- feeling hopeless or like you can't cope
- not being able to enjoy anything
- memory loss, brain fog or poor concentration
- excessive anxiety about the baby
- panic attacks
- sleeplessness or extreme tiredness
- loss of appetite
How to get help for postpartum depression
If you're experiencing any of these symptoms and they aren't going away, speak to your GP right away. Don't wait for your 6 week check-up to raise this, as you will be able to get support ahead of this to start feeling better sooner.
It's also a good idea to talk to those you trust. The important thing is not to suffer in silence. Many health visitors are also trained to help you manage postpartum depression, so you can let them know how you're feeling. Counselling can be given to you through a therapist or health visitor.
Your doctor may also offer you mediation, such as antidepressants. Let them know if you're breastfeeding, as they'll be sure to offer you a suitable medication.
Other helpful resources for postpartum depression
You may also find it helpful to seek help through the following sources: