After a woman has a baby, we often describe the variety of emotions and experience as baby blues and/or possibly postpartum depression.

This is something that I think we need to put some more language around and also some practical steps and suggestions of what you can do to recognize, move through, and cope with baby blues and postpartum depression.

I’m also hopeful that after watching this video or reading this article that you will be able to identify and differentiate between baby blues and postpartum depression. Also learning when to reach out for help if you feel like the symptoms of baby blues has transitioned into postpartum depression.

After baby is born it’s not uncommon to not feel like yourself.  It can feel kind of confusing at times.

You just had a baby and perhaps everyone around you expects you to feel happy. I think mamas can feel confused that there are times that they don’t feel happy.

Yes, it is a joyous experience and yet moms need to give themselves time to adjust to this huge emotional and physical adjustment of having a baby.

Signs and Symptoms of Baby Blues

Here are several signs and symptoms of baby blues which are known to be experienced within the first 2-3 days after a baby is born and can last up to 6-8 weeks postpartum:

  • Feeling down
  • Irritable
  • Feeling tearful and/or weepy at unexpected times
  • Not feeling quite like yourself
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety

As a postpartum doula, these are things that I find myself focusing on and asking mamas how they might potentially be experiencing these. The signs and symptoms mentioned above are ones that are common and I would even say normal to feel after a baby’s born born. Baby blues are connected and related to hormone fluctuations. After a baby is born, a mama’s hormones are fluctuating dramatically and it’s why we believe it is common to experience baby blues. Again, having a baby and transitioning into an new family is an incredible and enormous transition.

Suggestions to Cope and Move Through Baby Blues

I want to be careful to not imply that the goal is to reduce or eliminate baby blues. My hope is that as mamas, a culture, and community we can support and think differently about the profound changes that happen within a mama right after having a baby.

Here are some suggestions in how to embrace and move through this transition:

1. Talk to someone.

It sounds really simple but it’s also very difficult to do when you’re feeling this way but when you can connect with someone and you feel seen and heard it minimizes feeling isolated and lonely.

2. Rest.

This may be different than sleep! We live in a world of constant distractions and where our phones are in our pockets or on our bedside stands. I strongly encourage you to shut down for a little while and rest without distraction.

3. Relaxation and breathing exercises.
4. Touch.

I want to make note that I know personally that when you’re in the postpartum season, sometimes touch is the last thing you want.

Perhaps you’ve been holding a baby all day but I want to encourage you to think about asking a friend or your partner for a foot/hand massage, to rub the tension in your shoulders, or perhaps hand holding is the only touch you need to feel connected to another.

5. Caring for your physical self.

Some examples might be a hot shower, eating nutritious food, or going outside for a walk. What I mean by your physical self is not necessarily just exercising but an action for your physical being that may enhance your mood.

6. Accepting help.

I know for me personally and as a postpartum doula, I am hired to come into homes of new families and help. Even in this role I observe how difficult it is for people to truly accept help.

I encourage asking for help to be centered around any way for you to minimize the daily tasks so that you can do the rest of these things mentioned above.

I observe often that the feeling of being overwhelmed as a new mama is when we take on these tasks that are really not necessary in this postpartum time and this seems to directly impact mama’s moods.

When these efforts are Not Enough: Reaching Out For Help

I think it’s important to recognize that some of these efforts are not enough and there are times when signs and symptoms of baby blues transition into postpartum depression. According to the CDC, just over 10% of women experience postpartum depression and anxiety disorder. We typically talk a lot about depression but anxiety is very much a symptom and experience for mamas. It is worth mentioning anxiety as I think there needs to be additional conversation around both depression and anxiety symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression:

  • Disinterest in your baby
  • Guilt and inadequacy.
  • Inadequate excessive worrying.
  • Irritability.
  • Anxiety and often feeling on edge.
  • Not feeling like yourself.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in your life.
  • Unable to sleep. Even at night when your baby is sleeping and you know you’re tired and you know you should be sleeping but you’re unable to sleep.  A common phrase I hear with this one is, “I feel wound up.”
  • Having thoughts of hurting yourself or baby
  • Lack of energy or motivation.

When to Ask for Help

Something I think is worth mentioning is around the time frame and when it is time to seek help. Perhaps you’ve heard from your doctor that “This is normal for postpartum” or other mama friends reassure you that this will pass with time.

I even I mentioned earlier that these baby blue symptoms are normal. And yet, there comes a time when you might feel like you need extra help, professional help and I think it’s important to not put a timeframe around it.

Trust yourself even if you feel unsure. If your intuition, or what I like to call your gut, you sense needing help, then it’s time to reach out for help!

The the faster you seek professional help the sooner you will hopefully start feeling better.

Professional help can look different for each mama. Interpersonal psychotherapy is an effective treatment for mild-to-moderate postpartum depression.

It can also be helpful for mamas with severe postpartum depression in addition with other treatments such as medication and/or hospitalization. There are also lots of great support groups that are offered to mamas after having a baby and I will include resources and links available here in the Tacoma area and some general resources that you can look into.

The most important point I’d like to make for mamas and a community is to recognize no matter what your experience, it’s more than ok to ask for help.

Whether you’re sensing you’re experiencing postpartum depression or if there are others in your life that care, respect, and you feel loved by and they’re sharing with you that you’re in place of needing help, there’s no shame or guilt in receiving care. It’s important that you know you’re not going through this alone.

Especially as a mamas at home and being physically alone with your baby, these symptoms can feel very lonely and isolating. If you’re reading this and you’re experiencing this right now, I just want encourage you to reach out to a friend or a loved one to let them know how you’re feeling and that you’re not alone!

I hope that you have found this blog entry to be helpful in differentiating between baby blues and postpartum
depression as well when to ask for help. I also hope this has encouraged you to accept help and even normalize that asking for help is okay!

Resources:

Postpartum Depression Information & Resources:

Washington

Find a support group in your local area here:

Postpartum Depression Support Groups in the U.S. & Canada

Tacoma, WA Local group:
Balance After Birth at Franciscan Medical Building St. Joseph Medical Center. (253)460-7248