Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?
Mona Amini, MD, is a psychiatry resident physician at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix.
Question: Since the birth of her daughter, my friend has lost interest in everything. She’s sad, cries often, barely eats and is always tired. I’ve heard this is normal for a new mother, but it’s been going on for eight weeks. Should I be worried?
Answer: The birth of a new baby can be an exciting new step in life, but it can also trigger a wealth of emotions for new mothers.
While most women are elated and filled with feelings of joy and excitement, others may experience uncomfortable feelings of sadness.
If severe enough, these feelings can lead to physical and psychological symptoms of an illness known as postpartum depression.
It’s quite common for the anticipation of a new bundle of joy to lead to anxiety as well as disruption to a woman’s sleep cycle, changes in libido, sadness and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms, commonly known as the “baby blues,” are normal and generally last a few days or even a few weeks. However, they become problematic when they become more severe, overwhelm a mother and carry on for more than two weeks.
Becoming hopeless, losing interest and joy in life, displaying intense mood swings, experiencing excessive fatigue, having difficulty eating and sleeping, isolating herself from friends and family, and having thoughts of harming herself are worrisome signs of something far beyond the typical baby blues. Postpartum depression may be at play.
Detrimental to both mother and baby, postpartum depression can hinder the natural and necessary bonding that occurs between a mother and her newborn. Such bonding, even in the earliest stages of life, is extremely important for a baby’s development.
Some mothers may be embarrassed to admit their symptoms to loved ones or even to themselves, but the signs should never be ignored. Studies show that even if symptoms are not present during pregnancy, they may develop after delivery or soon thereafter.
Technically, postpartum depression can last up to six months after delivery. It is important to seek treatment from a health care professional if symptoms continue for more than two weeks and/or worsen. Early treatment of postpartum depression can reduce recovery time and ensure bonding between mom and baby.