Emotional challenges may accompany birth of a baby
The arrival of a baby can come with a host of emotions. Sometimes, those include anxiety or sadness. The term “baby blues” is often used to describe these postpartum feelings.
Baby blues are very common and are not the result of weakness or character flaws. Having the blues should never cause an individual to feel shame or guilt. Instead, they are your body’s way of saying you need to seek care for yourself so that you can be the best parent possible.
What are baby blues?
The baby blues happen to most women who have gone through childbirth. This is because of the physical changes the body undergoes, plus emotional and social stressors.
Baby blues often start within five days of childbirth. These symptoms may be obvious for minutes or hours each day:
- Crying or weepiness
- Mood swings
- Worry or anxiety
- Forgetfulness or the inability to concentrate
Baby blues will begin to subside on their own, typically around two weeks after delivery. If your symptoms don’t begin to fade, you may be experiencing a more serious condition.
Do I have postpartum depression?
For 10 to 15 percent of women, the baby blues will become postpartum depression. This condition is tied to not only hormones but to other psychological factors. In this way, postpartum depression can also affect adoptive mothers and fathers.
This condition typically begins one to three months after childbirth, but can occur anytime within the baby’s first year. Symptoms are obvious for most of the day, usually most days of the week. They include the baby blues symptoms, plus:
- Feeling overwhelmed or hopeless
- Fear that you are an inadequate parent
- Harmful thoughts (toward yourself or your baby)
- Inability to sleep, or the desire to sleep too much
- Weight loss or gain due to change in appetite
Are you at risk?
You may be at greater risk for developing baby blues or postpartum depression if you have a history of mild-to-severe premenstrual syndrome. A family or personal history of depression or anxiety can also put you at greater risk.
Hormonal changes, sleep deprivation and physical discomfort play a role, as do these triggers:
- Difficulties with breastfeeding
- Transitioning from the hospital to home
- Medical problems (mother or baby)
- Financial concerns
- A colicky or fussy baby
- A poor relationship with your partner or spouse
Don’t delay seeking help
If you have symptoms — of baby blues or postpartum depression — it is critical that you get support. Start by talking with other parents; baby blues are so common, you’ll likely find many women who have experienced it.
In addition, reach out to your obstetrician or primary care provider to let them know what you are experiencing. If you ever feel like you want to harm yourself, or your baby, go to the emergency department immediately.
These are simple steps you can, and should, take to improve your mood and emotional outlook after delivery:
- Sleep, or at least rest, whenever you can. Being well-rested improves your outlook tremendously.
- Keep a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water. Avoid caffeine, which can affect your sleep.
- Get fresh air by taking walks outside. Even a short walk will be beneficial for you, and for your baby.
If your symptoms don’t improve, your doctor may recommend adding talk therapy and, if deemed necessary, an anti-depressant medication.
Specialists at the UCLA Maternal Mental Health Program are available to assess and support women who are faced with baby blues or postpartum depression.