What are Postpartum Blues?
Postpartum blues is a mild and short-term mood disorder that results after pregnancy. It is one of the most common types of postpartum depression. Sometimes termed the “baby blues,” this condition is something that many new mothers experience.
As a new parent, you will go through periods of happiness, joy, sadness and frustration. Despite everything to be grateful and excited for with a new child, the baby blues can set in and cause you to feel sad or cry when you normally wouldn’t.
Moodiness and sadness are extremely characteristic of the baby blues. It the more common than many women and their families know.
About the Postpartum Blues
Postpartum blues is a temporary and short-term mental and emotional health condition that can set in immediately after giving birth. It is not considered a serious or severe condition by medical health professionals but a normal response to changing hormone levels, exhaustion and the life-changing event of having a new baby.
Who Does Postpartum Blues Affect?
Postpartum blues is thought to affect anywhere from 70 to 80 percent of women who have given birth. It can affect women after any pregnancy, not just the first one. It is so prevalent that many medical health professionals think it is a normal part of the postpartum experience simply.
In fact, it is so common that men can also experience postpartum blues. Statistics have shown that as many as 25 percent of men experience these milder baby blues as “sad dads.”
People from all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, cultures and socioeconomic levels have reported feeling the baby blues. Whether or not someone in your family has experienced it, you may experience the postpartum blues if you or your spouse recently had a baby.
Postpartum Blues Causes and Risk Factors
Most experts believe postpartum blues are caused by a sudden drop in hormone levels that women experience after birth. During pregnancy, women have hormone levels at 20 to 30 times greater than when not pregnant. The physical exertion of childbirth also creates a chemical high in the brain. Thus, sudden and temporary sadness may occur as your brain’s neurotransmitters adjust your body to normal hormone levels after giving birth.
Hormonal changes and physical exhaustion from childbirth are not the only factors that cause postpartum blues. Having a new baby presents a new set of responsibilities and changes in life routines. Adjusting to this new life after welcoming a newborn can cause most parents to feel overwhelmed and worried for the first two or so weeks after childbirth.
While there is no specific cause of postpartum blues, factors can contribute to its potential development.
Common factors that cause postpartum blues can include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Other pre-existing medical conditions
- Marital problems
- Lack of social or family support
- Being a young or first-time parent
- Low socioeconomic status
It’s important to note that these are just potential risk factors that can cause postpartum blues. Women who have none of these risk factors can still develop postpartum blues. Because it is such a versatile condition, the real cause of its development in each individual may never be fully understood.
Postpartum Blues Symptoms
Most often, people who experience the baby blues describe it as being an emotional roller coaster. Distinct periods of sadness are interspersed with feelings of joy and happiness in caring for the new baby.
Many new mothers also experience feelings of reaching an anti-climactic state. Pregnancy itself is a long and thrilling journey that creates lots of anticipation. After the baby arrives, some women and even men experience confusion because their real feelings don’t match their expectations.
The following are the most commonly reported postpartum blues symptoms that mothers and fathers may experience:
- Mood swings
- Bursting into tears
- Feeling on edge or overly sensitive
- Physical and mental exhaustion
- Anxiety and worry
- Feeling empty or lonely
- Feeling stressed or overwhelmed
- Confusion about your emotions
- Not being able to cope
- Difficulty sleeping or trouble falling asleep
Postpartum blues symptoms typically start within the first 48 to 72 hours after delivering a baby. These symptoms generally last about two weeks, with symptoms tending to peak shortly after the first week.
It is important to understand that these are the limitations of postpartum blues symptoms. If you are experiencing any other more severe and chronic symptoms, you may struggle with postpartum depression or a more serious postpartum condition.
If symptoms persist or worsen after 14 days, then you should inform your physician or a mental health professional immediately.
Postpartum Blues Treatment
The best treatment for postpartum blues is plenty of rest combined with regular exercise, meals, and water. Postpartum blues shouldn’t require medication or therapy.
While postpartum blues is the mildest and most common form of postpartum depression, it’s still important for you to talk about your emotions post-pregnancy. Suffering in silence is not healthy for yourself or your family. You can cope much better with these symptoms by addressing them and communicating openly about them with your family.
Remember that the feelings you are experiencing are common and valid. If you feel any shame or guilt, discussing this with your partner is important so you can begin to heal and recover.
Provided you take care of yourself within the weeks following childbirth, you will find that your baby blues symptoms will disappear as quickly as they came on.