Motherhood. Is. Hard.
It’s emotional. It's trying. It's fulfilling. It’s stressful. So how do you navigate the waters between what’s a normal amount of “baby blues” versus something more serious?
What are “Baby Blues”?
A lot of people reference the “baby blues” when talking about the emotions new moms experience in the weeks after baby arrives. Within a few days of giving birth the sudden change in hormones can cause a lot of new mamas to go from feeling blissfully happy, to feeling symptoms that are very similar to depression (trouble sleeping, mood swings, irritability, hopelessness) and anxiety (constant worry, racing thoughts, etc.). Because let’s face it—hormones are no joke and new babies are, quite frankly, overwhelming.
And there are a lot of other things going on in the newborn days that can make new moms feel a bit down at times, including:
- Lack of sleep
- Stress about being a good mother (reality check: you already are!)
- Big changes in home and work routines
- Feeling less attractive
- Less free time to do things you enjoyed before baby
- Feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing (especially if it’s your first baby)
For most new moms, the baby blues fade within five days or so. But, mama—if you suspect there’s something bigger going on, and you feel sad, nervous, hopeless, or empty for more than two weeks, you might have postpartum depression or anxiety—and you are not alone. One in nine new moms suffer from postpartum depression—and one in 10 from postpartum anxiety.
What Are the Signs of Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum Depression can happen anytime in the first year after giving birth. During your baby’s wellness checks with their provider, you might be given a short questionnaire that will evaluate you for postpartum depression (or you can ask your doctor, nurse or midwife to provide one if you suspect you may be depressed).
If you’ve been experiencing any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, you should talk with your provider:
- Feeling sad, hopeless or empty
- Losing pleasure in everyday things
- Not feeling hungry and losing weight OR eating more than usual and gaining weight
- Having trouble sleeping
- Not being able to concentrate
- Not feeling connected to your baby
- Feeling worthless, guilty or like a bad mom
- Having thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby
What Are the Signs of Postpartum Anxiety?
Postpartum anxiety can be experienced on its own, or in addition to postpartum depression in some new moms. If you’ve been experiencing any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, you should talk to your provider:
- Constantly worrying
- Feeling that something bad may happen
- Racing thoughts
- Having trouble sleeping
- Changes in appetite
Some women with postpartum anxiety also experience panic attacks. During a panic attack you may feel shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, and numbness—it’s important to know that while a panic attack can definitely feel scary, it will pass and won’t hurt you.
What Should I Do if I Think I Have Postpartum Depression or Anxiety?
If you can relate to any of the symptoms above and have been experiencing them for more than two weeks, please know—you’re a GREAT mom, you’re not alone in feeling this way, and you don’t need to continue to suffer.
Contact your provider—or have your partner or a loved one call for you—to arrange an appointment. You and your provider will discuss how you’ve been feeling, and help you find the best treatment option. Treatments can include therapy or medication—some of which are safe for breastfeeding or exclusively pumping moms.
And remember—getting help for postpartum depression or anxiety does not make you a bad parent, and you should never feel shame or guilt. In fact, seeking treatment makes you a strong, courageous mama with her baby’s best interests at heart.
If you think you can't keep from hurting yourself or your baby, see your doctor right away or call 911. For more resources, call:
The National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
The National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).