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Baby Blues… or Is It Something More?

Having a baby is an intense and exhilarating time in a woman’s life. There are so many expectations, dreams, hopes, fears, changes both logistically, physically and neurochemically. Women often find their moods after giving birth to be wildly fluctuating. One moment can be joy staring into a new little face and another moment terror at all the things to come. Sleep deprivation and shifting hormones can feel like a bit of a roller coaster. Lets talk about where post-partum blues end and post-partum depression begins.

What are Baby Blues?

The baby blues are extremely common. It’s estimated that about 75 percent of women will experience this after birth. Some common symptoms are rapid mood swings, tearfulness, being tired and experiencing heightened interpersonal reactivity. This is time limited and should resolve in the first two weeks after birth. Usually, there isn’t a persistent negative mood, but rather pockets of emotionality that can be unexpected. 

I remember after I gave birth, I was sitting and nursing my twins on the couch. A well enacted commercial could bring me to tears while less than five minutes later I was laughing along with the comedy I was watching. My husband and mom quickly realized to limit their feedback and opinions because a dicey comment could send me into a sea of tears. This subsided slowly after the first 15-20 days and I soon felt much more like my old self.

What is Post-partum Depression?

The diagnostic criterion for post-partum depression is identical to a major depressive disorder with the unique distinction of starting during the post-partum period or continuing onto the post-partum period if started during pregnancy. Symptoms are often marked and more persistent. Symptoms include difficulty with sleep (despite being sleep deprived), decreased interest, unexplained feelings of guilt, decreased energy that is not relieved by catching up on sleep or taking breaks, decreased concentration, markedly decreased or increased appetite, psychomotor slowing and or suicidal thoughts. The bad news? Women often suffer in silence for much too long because they attribute their symptoms to more “normal baby blues” or an expected part of the new motherhood experience. The good new? Post-partum depression is highly treatable, especially if recognized early on. 

Some of these thoughts may serve as red flags to dig a bit deeper. Are you feeling chronically overwhelmed? Does it go away after getting some rest? Has it been difficult to bond with the baby? Do you feel resentment towards the baby or trapped in your new situation? Do you feel irritable? Are you feeling isolated and alone? Does the thought, “it will always be this way and likely won’t get better” cross your mind often? Does the future feel hopeless?

How to treat Post-partum depression?

  • Your first resource can always be your OB. They can help distinguish between post-partum blues and post-partum depression (or another related disorder.) They can help start treatment and get you to the right professionals if needed. The number one thing not to do is feel ashamed and NOT bring it up. They are there not to judge you but to help support you not only through the pregnancy, but through one of the biggest transitions in your life. Fun fact: they see this ALL THE TIME and may have even experienced it themselves as physicians are not immune to these things either! The types of people they might suggest are;  
    • A therapist (typically an LCSW, LMFT, LPC) who can provide talk therapy to help support you through this time. A therapist can help address the post-partum depression and normalize your experience as well as give you tools to help cope and recover.
    • A psychiatrist (MD/DO) who is trained in providing therapy and in addition can evaluate for the need for medication and discuss your treatment options with you in detail. 
  • Sit down with your partner or a trusted friend and develop a support system. You have carried a baby for months and brought it here into the world, its ok to ask for help! Explain to them how you have been feeling. It’s not their job to “fix” it for you, but a good support system to help with tasks and make sure you are getting adequate rest and nutrition. 

Reach out to our Post-partum Depression Therapists at Thriving Lane

If some of this article resonated with you, please do not worry or suffer alone. Get help, whether it’s reaching out to one of our therapists, calling your doctor or exploring options further at PPI. There are real solutions and effective treatments within your reach and I hope some of this information empower you to take the first step!

Tune in next time for a discussion on other less widely known but very real post-partum mood disorders!


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