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Postpartum depression vs. baby blues: Knowing when to seek help

mom with newborn

Childbearing can be challenging, and different women respond differently to it. While some mothers get excited after childbirth, some fall into depression as they navigate this significant life transition. Depression that occurs after childbirth is known as postpartum depression. However, some women also get depressed during pregnancy.

The good news is that depression during and after pregnancy is treatable. But how do you know you have postpartum depression?

First, let us clear the air between postpartum depression and baby blues.

What is baby blues?

Hardly any nursing mother is happy all the time. It's normal to feel frustrated and sad and needing to put the baby down sometimes. As a new mom, you may find yourself happy one moment and crying the next, feeling confused, sad, and overwhelmed by this new transition. This is known as baby blues.

Baby blues are hormonal changes that may cause sadness, anxiety, and restlessness in the first couple of weeks after childbirth. It's normal and isn't a cause for concern. Up to 80% of moms will experience baby blues caused by their hormone levels dropping after childbirth.

But postpartum depression is more severe, can be more long-term, and impacts the mother's daily function and care for her child.

The difference between postpartum depression and baby blues

While baby blues typically last only two weeks after childbirth and is caused by falling hormonal levels, postpartum depression lasts longer and requires treatment. The sadness of baby blues comes and goes momentarily, but the feeling of worthlessness from depression can last days and weeks in a row.

Depression is more than just a feeling of sadness or worry that comes and goes. In fact, everyone feels sad sometimes. Depression is a serious mental health disorder that can last weeks or months and affects daily function.

You get less productive in whatever you do and may not even have the energy to get things done at all. In this case, caring for the baby.

Postpartum depression is clinical depression accompanied by the anxieties surrounding motherhood and baby care.

Depression symptoms

Symptoms of Postpartum depression

The symptoms of postpartum depression may include the following in addition to the symptoms of depression:

How common is postpartum depression?

About 1 in 8 women experience postpartum depression, according to the CDC. On the other hand, up to 80% (8 out of 10) of women experience baby blues.

Further studies also show that the rate of depression amongst women during childbirth is on the rise. It increased by seven between the years 2000 and 2015.

How to treat baby blues

You don't need to see the doctor if you have baby blues. Here's what you can do to feel better:

How to treat postpartum depression

Every pregnant woman and new mom needs support. The support shouldn't be only physical but also emotional. Women need a sense of connection more during this time as they sometimes feel overwhelmed by the thought of responsibility for the baby and the drastic life change.

If you are currently experiencing postpartum depression, see your doctor or make an appointment to discuss it with a Advanced Practice Registered Nurse as quickly as possible. Don't wait for your next check-up with the doctor. So much could be at stake, including your welllbeing and that of the child.

Most people get better soon after they begin treatment, and getting better is the best thing you can do for yourself and the baby at this point. Just ensure you follow up on whatever medication or treatment suggestion your health care provider offers.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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