Having a baby is one of the most joyous experiences in a mother’s life. However, the exhaustion that parents experience with newborn babies is real. Sleepless nights, constant tiredness and a complete lack of energy can all be expected. Newborn babies don’t usually develop a normal sleeping pattern until they’re much older. In the meantime, they tend to sleep in fits and starts waking up every 1-3 hours. Simply put their sleeping schedule becomes yours too. So not unsurprisingly over a period of time this ongoing state of exhaustion can start to have an effect on your physical, mental and psychological well being.
Postpartum blues and postpartum depression are two different medical conditions that can affect your mental health. Both conditions occur just after the birth of a child and are made more difficult by the exhaustion, tiredness and sometimes overwhelming feelings of being a new mom.
The postpartum blues or ‘baby blues’ as they’re also called, is a period of time, usually 1-2 weeks following childbirth where new mothers feel very emotional, tearful and can go from one mood to the next in a matter of minutes. This is normal. Changing hormones in the body can lead to unpredictable emotions. Postpartum blues are extremely common. They are marked by mood swings, anxiety, sadness, feeling overwhelmed, reduced concentration or difficulty sleeping. They usually come and go within 1-2 weeks.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a much more severe and prolonged version of the blues. It is also associated with more concerning symptoms like feelings of worthlessness, severe mood swings or an inability to carry out basic day to day tasks. In its worse form, postpartum depression can lead to thoughts of suicide. Postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer.
Signs and symptoms of PPD
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
If you notice one or more of the symptoms above, make an appointment to see your doctor immediately. Do not assume that postpartum depression will simply disappear on its own.
Treating postpartum depression
The first and best action to take is to ask for help. It is important to note that the feelings associated with postpartum depression are not simply inadequacy or your inability as a mother to adjust to life with a newborn. Many women feel a sense of reluctance or embarrassment when asking for help. But postpartum depression is a condition that many women face and with appropriate treatment, it can be managed.
If you notice any of the symptoms above, make an appointment to speak to your doctor, nurse or midwife about how you’re feeling. They will always be a useful resource that can help you deal with your emotions and stressors that you’re experiencing.
If you suspect that a friend or loved one has postpartum depression or is developing postpartum psychosis, help them seek medical attention immediately. We want to help ensure that you and your loved ones are able to enjoy your baby and continue to be healthy and happy throughout your postpartum period and beyond!