What are Postpartum Blues?

One of the most common types of postpartum depression, postpartum blues is a mild and short-term mood disorder that results after pregnancy.  Sometimes termed the “baby blues”, this condition is something that many new mothers experience but may be confused by.

As a new parent, you go through several emotions from joy, love and gratitude, to exhaustion overwhelm and sometimes sadness. Despite all the things you have to be grateful and excited about, the baby blues can set in and create sadness that causes you to cry and weep at things you normally wouldn’t be bothered by.

This is extremely characteristic of the baby blues and it’s more common than many women, and their families know.

What is Postpartum Blues?

Postpartum blues is a temporary and short-term mental and emotional health condition that takes place immediately following giving birth. It is not considered by medical health professionals to be a serious or severe condition but rather 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%-80% of women who have given birth. It can affect women after their first pregnancy or after any other pregnancy for that matter. Postpartum blues has such a high rate of prevalence that it is thought by many medical health professionals to simply be a normal part of the postpartum experience.

In fact, it is so common, that many men can also experience postpartum blues. Some numbers indicate as many as 25% of men experience these milder “baby blues” symptoms and this is sometimes known as “sad dads”.

People from all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, cultures and socioeconomic levels have reported feeling the baby blues. Whether someone in your family has experienced it or not, you can expect that you may experience postpartum baby blues.

Postpartum Blues Causes and Risk Factors

Because the rate of baby blues is so high, the primary cause of developing baby blues is believed to be caused the sudden drop in hormone levels that women experience. During pregnancy, women have hormone levels at 20-30 times greater than when not pregnant. Therefore, after giving birth, this drastic change in hormones returning to normal levels can cause sudden and temporary sadness.

In effect, your hormone levels are attempting to rebalance themselves. The brain’s neurotransmitters that are responsible for mood and behavior, are recorrecting after having gone through the physical exertion of childbirth, which creates a chemical high in the brain.

Hormonal changes and general physical exhaustion from childbirth are only part of the overall picture of what causes the baby 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 one specific cause of postpartum blues, there are factors that can contribute to its potential development.

Other postpartum blues risk factors can include:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Fatigue
  • 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 contribute to feelings of baby blues. Many women have none of these risk factors at all but still develop postpartum blues symptoms. Because it is such as 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 whereby there are distinct periods of sadness dispersed with feelings of joy and happiness about welcoming a new baby into the world.

Many new mothers also experience some 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 baby blues symptoms that mothers and fathers may experience:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • 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 own emotions
  • Not being able to cope
  • Difficulty sleeping or trouble falling asleep

Postpartum blues symptoms typically start within the first 48-72 hours after delivering a baby. These symptoms generally last about two weeks, with symptoms tending to peak at the one week to ten-day mark.

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, then you may be struggling with postpartum depression or one of its other types.

If symptoms last longer than 14 days or worsen at this point, then it is vital that you inform your physician or a mental health professional immediately.

Postpartum Blues Treatment

The best postpartum blues treatment is plenty of rest combined with proper health practices such as hydrating, eating well and exercising daily. Postpartum blues shouldn’t require medication or therapy.

While postpartum blues is the mildest form of postpartum depression and is the most common, it’s still important to you talk about your struggles with sadness and overwhelm post-pregnancy. Suffering in silence with your baby blues symptoms 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. If you feel any shame or guilt, it is important to discuss this with your partner so you can begin to heal and recover.

Provided you are taking care of yourself within the weeks following childbirth, you will find that your baby blues symptoms will disappear as quickly as they came on.

References:

  1. http://americanpregnancy.org/first-year-of-life/baby-blues/
  2. http://www.bounty.com/baby-0-to-12-months/postnatal-depression-and-bonding/baby-blues
  3. http://www.babycenter.com/0_the-baby-blues_11704.bc
  4. http://psychotherapy.com/mom.htmla