What’s The Difference Between Postpartum Depression and Baby Blues?
If you’re suffering from emotional changes after birth, you may be wondering if you have postpartum depression or the baby blues. Is there a difference?
Many women don’t like to talk about it, but depression after pregnancy is more common than you probably think.
Postpartum depression affects 1 in 7 women, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Baby blues mood swings are more common, affecting 80% of new mothers.
In this post, we’ll explain the difference, what to do if you have either and ways to prevent both.
How to Tell the Difference Between Postpartum Depression and Baby Blues
Although certain women are more at risk, anyone can experience depression after pregnancy. You can be a strong, intelligent and loving mother and still go through mood swings. It’s nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about and only your doctor can diagnose you with a mental illness.
Usually, postpartum depression is baby blues that doesn’t go away or is severe. Here are some other ways to tell the difference.
When you give birth, you may think you’re supposed to feel wildly happy and overjoyed to be a mother. While you love your baby, you may feel guilty if you feel a little less happy than you think you should. Since you’re going through a big change, it’s normal that your emotions are changing. But when does it become a problem?
Early on, baby blues and postpartum depression can share many of the same symptoms. Ask yourself these questions to see if you’re dealing with emotional changes after the baby has arrived.
- Do you feel like yourself? Most women will feel a bit different once they’ve become a mother because their routine has changed. However, if you’re feeling disassociated from yourself, that’s a sign that your mood should be addressed.
- Do you have trouble sleeping? You may be getting fewer hours of sleep, but when you do lay down, are you able to fall asleep or are worries preventing you?
- Has your appetite changed? Once you have your baby, your eating routine may change, but you should still have an appetite. Not having a drive to eat could signal depression.
- Do you have mood swings? If you feel happy one moment and you’re crying the next, that could be a sign of the baby blues. Crying for the whole day may also mean you have postpartum depression.
- Do you feel connected to the baby? If you’re struggling to feel connected to your baby, it could be a sign of postpartum depression. This disconnection can also extend to your partner or other family members and friends.
If you have these emotions, it’s likely you either have the baby blues or postpartum depression. While mild ups and downs are usually the baby blues, more intense emotions can be related to postpartum depression.
When Does it Start?
Baby blues starts soon after giving birth. Postpartum depression can start in the first 2-3 months. If your emotional changes start and stop within 2 weeks after giving birth, it’s probably the baby blues.
How Long Does it Last?
Baby blues lasts about two weeks after giving birth as you’re adapting to the changes. On the other hand, postpartum depression can last years or until it’s treated. If the baby blues persist and is severe, it becomes postpartum depression.
Are Your Emotions Interfering with Daily Life?
If your symptoms are so severe that they’re not allowing you to normally function in day-to-day life, it’s usually considered postpartum depression, even if it occurs within the first two weeks.
Can Father’s Get Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression can also affect men and parents who adopt. Since it’s less talked about and since they’re not the one who gave birth, they’re less likely to seek help and talk about how they feel. Instead, you may notice your partner becoming more withdrawn. Whether it’s you or your partner suffering from postpartum depression, it’s important to seek help.
What to Do About the Baby Blues
If you’re feeling sad after the baby, there are a few things you can do to lift your spirits.
When the new baby comes, you’re busy and may be suffering from a lack of sleep and poor nutrition. Unfortunately, this can lead to or feed emotional changes. Although it can be difficult, try to eat a balanced diet and take naps when possible. Also, aim to get out of the house once a day. Whether it’s going for a run or walking with the baby, getting some form of exercise can help generate positive emotions.
Although you may feel like being alone, isolating yourself can put you into a depression. Even though it may be hard, try to spend time with friends and family or attend a new mothers group.
Ask for Help
The stress of having to do everything yourself can lead to the baby blues. It’s okay to ask people to help out. Ask your partner to take on more responsibility or take your family up on the offers to babysit for a few hours. If your friends ask what they can do to help, be honest. Remember, helping out makes the other person feel good, too!
Baby blues usually subside after two weeks. However, if your emotions are already intense, don’t wait to get help.
What to Do About Postpartum Depression
If you have postpartum depression, here’s what to do:
Realize it’s Okay
Depression is never an easy experience, but it can be especially troubling when it’s accompanied with guilt for being sad in a time you think you should be happy. Many women get postpartum depression and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed to reach out for help.
Talk to Your Doctor
If your baby blues last longer than a couple weeks, talk to your family doctor to see if you have postpartum depression. He or she can decide whether to prescribe you medication or refer you to a psychotherapist. When searching for a therapist, aim to find someone who specializes in postpartum depression so you can get the best help. Studies have shown that therapy, such as CBT, is effective in treating depression after pregnancy.
Download Supportive Apps
There are a few apps that you can download such as Postpartum Depression and PPD Gone!. The PPD Gone! app was created by a psychologist and provides resources for support and guidance for those with postpartum depression. It features audio and video achieves and a helpline.
See if there are any postpartum depression support groups in your area. If not, you can join an online forum or a Facebook support group.
Get Practical Help
Similar to the baby blues, you should also consider practical help. If stress is adding to your depression, you can ask friends or family to help out. If your own health is taking a toll, consider what help you can get that will allow you to get adequate exercise, sleep and nutrition.
If you have suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming your baby, call 911 and get help immediately.
Can You Prevent Postpartum Depression or the Baby Blues?
If you’re pregnant, you may be wondering if there’s a way to prevent feeling depressed after birth. While there’s no way to guarantee prevention, there are some things you can do that can minimize your risk.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you already suffer from mental health problems or you have a family history of it, tell your doctor. He or she can monitor you for symptoms and recommend the next steps or refer you to a therapist.
Having a strong support group can go a long way in preventing depression. Classes may also target issues such as stress, self-care, and unrealistic beliefs.
Take time for yourself while you’re pregnant. Destressing can look different to everyone. It could be as simple as a hot bath and a good novel to a full spa day or a babymoon.
Set Yourself up for Health
As we discussed, a lack of sleep and nutrition can lead to more mood swings. Since staying healthy while you’re taking care of a newborn can be hard, make and freeze meals months before. Think about when you’ll be able to take naps ahead of time (when your partner gets home, if your parents babysit one day a week, etc.)
Want to know more ways to prevent depression after pregnancy? Read our full guide How to Prevent Postpartum Depression Before Delivery: 8 Ways.
Are you doing anything to help prevent or treat depression after pregnancy? If so, leave any tips you have in the comments below! If you have any pregnant or new mother friends, be sure to share this post to help them, too!
P.S. Have you heard about our fetal heartbeat monitors? These amazing devices allow you to listen to your baby’s heartbeat while she’s still in the womb! Our customers explain why they’re amazing here. Check out our fetal dopplers.