Giving birth is exciting, scary, and a unique experience for every new mother. What comes after is a whole new ball game, especially if it’s your first. However, in the midst of the sleep deprivation and thrill of bringing your sweet new baby home, some mothers start to feel a little “off”. The important thing is understanding if you’re experiencing baby blues or postpartum depression.
Here are the signs of postpartum depression, plus how you can get the help you need to get through it.
Postpartum Depression or Baby Blues? How You Can Tell the Difference
Did you know that approximately 70-80% of all new mothers experience some negative feelings or mood swings after the birth of their child? It’s very normal. It’s a huge life change, not to mention all of the swirling hormones your body is experiencing.
So, if you’re feeling a jumble of emotions or sadness after the birth of your little one, it’s completely normal. It might even be what’s called “baby blues”. Baby blues is a form of postpartum depression, but it’s not as severe and usually only lasts a short amount of time.
Often the symptoms of “baby blues” will hit forcefully within four to five days after the birth of the baby, although depending on how the birth of the baby went, they may be noticeable earlier. Then about two weeks after the baby is born, they will start to dissipate.
Postpartum depression, however, is when new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression. Postpartum depression might seem like baby blues at first, but it can become severe enough that it interferes with your daily life and your ability to care for your baby.
Signs to Watch For
Any symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but may begin during pregnancy or show up about a year after birth.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
If left untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer. That’s why it’s so important for new moms suffering to receive help.
Remember, you’re not alone and it’s not your fault. Postpartum depression happens to many mothers. And there is help for you.
Many new mothers are reluctant to admit they’re feeling this way. There’s often a lot of pressure to feel elated, euphoric, or excited about the birth of a new baby, but that isn’t always the case.
If you’re having any or all of the above feelings, don’t wait to see if it gets better. If you’re having immediate thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, call 911. Or, try the following resources:
- Seek help from your primary care provider or other health care professional.
- Call a mental health professional.
- Call a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use their webchat on suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.
Don’t forget that these feelings are not uncommon. You’re not a bad mother and you’ve done nothing wrong. Postpartum depression can happen to anyone – the key is getting the help you need so you can start to feel better.