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Giving birth to a baby and taking care of him is not easy. It can be quite stressful for you, both physically and emotionally. Considering the changes that accompany childbirth – new responsibilities, sleep deprivation, fatigue and no time to look after yourself – you are likely to go on an emotional rollercoaster ride as the hormones that helped you through your pregnancy will immediately change post delivery.
Your hormones and emotions are closely related, and a sudden change can cause mood swings that can be overwhelming. Nearly 80% of mothers experience this state, commonly known as the ‘Baby Blues’. It’s perfectly normal to experience it, and if the symptoms don’t go away in a few weeks or get worse, it may be an indication of postpartum depression.
How to Differentiate Between Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues
Post-childbirth, your hormone levels change significantly. The drop in estrogen and progesterone levels and changes in metabolism, immune system functioning, and blood pressure can trigger postpartum depression or baby blues. Physical changes to the body and the stress of coping with changes in your life after being a new mother can also add to the problem. Most women experience at least a few of the symptoms of baby blues soon after childbirth. Initially, the symptoms of baby blues and postpartum depression are almost similar, such as mood swings, sadness, crying jags, irritability, and insomnia. For a better understanding of the two, here is a breakdown of postpartum depression and baby blues:
Signs of Baby Blues
- Feeling tearful unexpectedly is the first sign of baby blues. This is something that starts a few days after giving birth; the pregnancy hormones subside and are on their way out while your breast milk is steadily rising. You would feel a need to weep at even the most trivial things happening to you or around you. Therefore, have tissues at hand and let it all out when you feel the need.
- You may also snap at your loved ones now and then. Unlike the ideal mom you planned on being from day one, you’ll find yourself irritable and snap at everyone around you. As your body prepares for some major physical changes and sleep deprivation hits you, it is natural to get annoyed at simple errors the people around you make. Try not to worry about the years of motherhood ahead of you and get some rest.
- You will be exhausted but unable to sleep; the ongoing stress will keep you from falling asleep. Your mother or friend probably warned you about this, and now this will happen to you. You won’t be able to sleep whenever you want because you’ll have to take care of your little one, even when your body is demanding for rest. This is a most common experience with baby blues that mothers experience.
- You may feel anxious or worried. When you look back at the stress you felt at work, or when you moved to a new house, it wouldn’t be even close to what you’ll feel now. Even though your baby is safe and healthy, and your childbirth went well, you’ll feel anxious about the smallest things. In this case, blame it on baby blues. It can make you more worried and anxious for no reason at all.
- Baby blues will make it harder for you to concentrate, and you may become more forgetful. This is also very common as your house will be filled with visitors and you’ll have a hard time following any conversation. You may also find it hard to focus and become more forgetful of things. This all part of the changes you’re going through and will pass as things start to settle in a few weeks.
Signs of Postpartum Depression
- At first, the signs of postpartum depression (PPD) are very similar to baby blues; they can also present themselves a little stronger. However first-time moms can easily miss the difference. The most common symptoms are mood swings, insomnia, irritability, crying, and sadness.
- One the most characteristic marker of the onset of PPD is the length of time that it lasts. While baby blues last from a few days to a week, PPD becomes apparent only after a few weeks. It can stay for months when left untreated.
- The stark difference between baby blues and PPD are suicidal thoughts. Having feelings of harming yourself or harming the baby or if you experience irrational fears of your baby being harmed, are all major red flags.
- PPD may make you fearful of normal things that happen with babies, and you may start thinking that it is your entire fault and you are not doing well enough a job as a mother.
- Withdrawal from your partner or being unable to attend to and bond with your baby is another sign of postpartum depression.
- Another sign of postpartum depression is feelings of anxiety that prevent you from functioning during the day or sleeping at night even when the baby is doing well. It could also be accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and an impending sense of doom.
- You may also feel worthless. They might also change into thoughts preoccupied with death or wishing to be dead.
- You may lose interest in activities that you once enjoyed.
- A history of postpartum depression where the symptoms are similar to the last time.
- Postpartum psychosis is a rare but much more severe problem that can develop after childbirth. It is primarily characterised by the loss of touch with reality accompanied by the risk of suicide or infanticide. Some of its symptoms include bizarre behaviour, delusions, hallucinations, extreme anxiety or agitation, disorientation, inability to eat, and risk of harmful behaviour toward self or baby.
If you notice that your symptoms last for more than a few weeks, immediately consult a doctor, because it might be postpartum depression.
Also Read: Help New Mums to Fight Postnatal Depression