Bringing a baby into the world is a life-changing chapter of your life, in more ways than one. Your body has worked tirelessly for the duration of your pregnancy. It is a beautiful and fascinating evolution that impacts every aspect of a woman’s life. Following the delivery, your body will continue to adjust to the rapid changes.
These changes can come as a surprise for many and manifest uniquely in every woman. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the levels of estrogen and progesterone in a woman’s body quickly drop after childbirth. This can lead to chemical changes in the brain, triggering mood swings known as the baby blues and/or postpartum depression.
What Is the Difference Between Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression?
With postpartum depression, feelings of sadness and anxiety can be extreme and may require professional treatment. These symptoms can sometimes be confused with the “baby blues,” which include feelings that are relatively mild, brief (lasting only a week or two) and go away on their own.
Both are common occurrences for new mothers’ post-childbirth. According to the NIH, postpartum depression occurs in about 15% of births. This said, many new moms brush aside their symptoms so this number could be much higher.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Mothers experiencing extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion after childbirth may be experiencing postpartum depression. Signs of postpartum depression can include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
- Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
- Worrying or feeling overly anxious
- Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
- Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when baby is asleep
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Experiencing anger or rage
- Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
- Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain
- Eating too little or too much
- Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
- Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with baby
- Persistently doubting her ability to care for baby
- Thinking about harming herself or baby
Are You at Risk?
Although postpartum depression can affect any new mom, there are some risk factors that can increase a woman’s chance of experiencing postpartum depression:
- Symptoms of depression during or after a previous pregnancy
- Previous experience with depression or bipolar disorder at another time in her life
- A family member who has been diagnosed with depression or other mental illness
- A stressful life event during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth, such as job loss, death of a loved one, domestic violence, or personal illness
- Medical complications during childbirth, including premature delivery or having a baby with medical problems
- Mixed feelings about the pregnancy, whether it was planned or unplanned
- A lack of strong emotional support from her spouse, partner, family, or friends
- Alcohol or other drug abuse problems
If you are at risk or feel like you have developed postpartum depression, know postpartum depression is treatable. The feelings you are having are normal. Many parents experience these feelings as well. While every mother follows her own journey, you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.
If you or someone you know are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, visit your health care provider and begin the path to recovery.