life of
dr. mom

Postpartum Depression: Are the “Baby Blues” and Postpartum Depression the Same Thing?

As a physician, often ask my post-partum patients “how are you feeling emotionally?” Naturally, many women experience strong emotions after having a baby. Some women say they feel overwhelming happiness and excitement, and others might experience intense sadness, guilt, or depression. When I had Madi, for the first 4 weeks I remember feeling guilty for not being able to soothe her right away and was more irritable with my husband.

There are all sorts of changes that happen after having a baby, and not all of them are physical. It is normal to feel low here and there – after all, you are adjusting to a big change in your life! Your sleeping and eating patterns are all off, your house is a mess, the baby is fussy, money can be stressful, the list goes on.

Many moms will experience more frequent low moods, irritability, appetite changes, fatigue and exhaustion, and difficulty concentrating after having a baby. This is known as the “postpartum blues” or the “Baby Blues.” The symptoms of “Baby Blues” are mild and develop usually a couple days after giving birth and resolve over the course of 2 weeks.

Because of changes in hormones such as estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy, some women are at risk of becoming depressed after delivering a baby. Postpartum Depression is a medical illness that is more intense than the “Baby Blues” and consists of dismal moods nearly all day, every day, for at least 2 weeks. Women often experience a number of other symptoms including those indicative of the “Baby Blues.”. They may also feel strong guilt about not being a good mom or wife.

Over the years I have seen many patients experience Postpartum Depression. It is more common than you’d think and happens in about 10% of women at some point during their pregnancy. In the end, I was lucky that I only experienced a minor bout of the blues, but it was upsetting enough to make me reflect on the real challenges that women have when adjusting to a whole new life as a mom.

For my patients who want more information on Postpartum Depression, I often refer them to the Mayo Clinic website.

Ref: O’Hara MW, Wisner KL. Perinatal mental illness: definition, description and aetiology. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2014 Jan;28(1):3-12. Epub 2013 Oct 7.

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