Post-partum blues -- are they real?
Lorenzo Boyce, MD, is a board-certified OB/GYN on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center.
Question: Are post-partum blues real or is it all in my head?
Answer: Post partum blues are definitely all in your head. But it is as real as the measurable chemicals that flow through your body and tell your brains to make you feel the way you do. Post partum blues or “baby blues” is a state of heightened emotion that occurs in certain women after the birth of their baby. The exact cause is not known, but is believed to be related to the hormonal changes that occur with pregnancy, labor and childbirth.
There are also many other external factors that may predispose a woman to these emotional changes. As many as 80 to 90 percent of women experience some degree of baby blues after childbirth. These feelings are self-limiting and require no real medical treatment. The emotional changes start a few days after giving birth, and may continue for several weeks.
Baby blues is probably not a good name for this condition since most mothers have no problem in caring for their newborn and are happy most of the time. But compared to how she usually feels, mothers may cry more easily, may be more irritable, and may feel sad and confused. For no clear reason they may feel angry with the newborn, other children, their partner and other family members, or anyone else who is in their immediate surroundings during these emotional surges.
Anyone who has been around a new mother during these emotional times can attest to the states of helplessness and confusion that these scenarios present. It can be a scary time for everyone involved. Baby blues affects all women. It crosses all social, economical and educational barriers.
There are many things that may increase the intensity of the baby blues feeling. These may include: a difficult pregnancy and delivery, personal and family problems, chronic or medical illness, to mention a few. What is recommended to ease this transition period is plenty of rest, help from your partner, family and friends, setting aside time for yourself, and talking to other women.
Dads also suffer from baby blues, as well as couples who have adopted a child. This indicates that the process is very complicated and not solely dependent on pregnancy. When the symptoms of baby blues continue for longer than the expected few weeks, then the woman needs medical attention for possible post partum depression, which is a real medical illness and must be treated as such.