What’s The Difference Between The Baby Blues & Postpartum Depression?

You’re overjoyed and just welcomed a baby into the world. But now, you’re overwhelmed, tired, and cranky. Your spouse said not to worry, that you’ll be your old self soon. But what if you’re not? You’re worried you’re unfit to be a parent. You may be suffering from postpartum depression.

What Are The Baby Blues?

Mood swings, or “baby blues,” are normal after childbirth. Up to 80 percent of all new moms get some negative feelings or mood swings within a few days of giving birth to their child. Typical symptoms may include weepiness, impatience, restlessness, and others. They often go away on their own, but when they don’t – and affect the mother’s mental and physical health and relationship with their baby and others – you could be experiencing postpartum depression.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

“For most women, having a baby is a very exciting, joyous, and often anxious time. But for women with peripartum (formerly postpartum) depression. Peripartum depression refers to depression occurring during pregnancy or after childbirth. The use of the term peripartum recognizes that depression associated with having a baby often begins during pregnancy.” Postpartum depression is a significant mental illness involving your brain and influences behavior and physical health.

Know The Symptoms

Possible symptoms:

  • Depressed mood
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Problems connecting with your baby
  • Self-isolation from loved ones
  • Changes in appetite
  • Problems sleeping
  • Overwhelming tiredness, low energy
  • Not interested in something you used to enjoy
  • Irritability, anger
  • Worry that you’re unfit as a parent
  • Hopelessness
  • Feelings like worthlessness, shame, remorse, or failure
  • Problems thinking or making decisions
  • Restlessness
  • Acute anxiety, panic attacks
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby
  • Persistent thoughts of suicide or death 

Postpartum Depression And Men

Arguably, fathers are more involved in their children’s lives than ever before – from birth all the way through to being empty nesters. What’s also more apparent is that fathers – equally affected by feeding a newborn in the early morning hours or juggling family responsibilities while working remotely – can also be affected by postpartum depression. According to the American Medical Association, about 10 percent of fathers get depressed before or just following their child’s birth.

What’s The Difference Between The Baby Blues & Postpartum Depression?

The most significant and most obvious difference between the baby blues & postpartum depression is that while one is mild and usually short-term, the other is more serious and potentially harmful.

“Baby blues tend to be seen around three to five days after the baby is born, and the mom will often experience symptoms for about two weeks,” says Janet Weatherly, a certified nurse-midwife at Henry Ford Health System. “Within the first couple weeks after childbirth, the estrogen and hormone change the mother experiences become a factor in the start of post-baby blues symptoms.”

Who’s at risk?

Certain people – male or female – may be at greater risk of getting postpartum depression based on many factors. Some risks can be controlled and managed, while others can’t. Risks of postpartum depression may include:

  • If you have a history of the illness already, or a history of mood disorders or another mental illness during your lifetime.
  • If you have a biological family member who received a diagnosis of depression or another mental illness.
  • Someone who dealt with stressful life situations or medical difficulties during or shortly after pregnancy.
  • Someone with mixed feelings about pregnancy or is otherwise unsure if they’re ready for the responsibility of raising a child.
  • Anyone challenged by an absence of family support.
  • Women suffering from alcohol or drug abuse issues.

There are ways to treat symptoms of postpartum depression, but the first step in the road to recovery is talking with a medical professional about diagnosis and treatment options.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosing and treating the symptoms of postpartum depression usually begins with a regular visit with your medical professional after the birth of your child. During the appointment, you and your healthcare provider will talk about symptoms, possible triggers, and what may be causing mood swings and symptoms. There may be some tests involved, but you may be referred to a mental health specialist for more assessment if there’s a medical problem. 

A psychological examination has the same goal: To learn what’s causing your symptoms and how to treat them. Once diagnosed with postpartum depression, possible treatment includes ketamine therapy.

Final Thoughts

Too many new parents or other family members quickly dismiss postpartum depression as something less than serious. That’s a mistake that can lead to more serious mental and physical health problems. If you have any symptoms of postpartum depression, take them seriously and ask your healthcare provider for help.

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