What comes to mind when you imagine the happiest day of your life? Many women will envision the euphoric moment when they hear their baby's first cries and get to hold their little one in their arms.
For one in seven women, that moment isn't as ecstatic as they hoped.
Those women experience postpartum depression, a common mood disorder that impacts new mothers after giving birth. Many women remain unaware of the condition and struggle with sadness or hopelessness during what should be the happiest days of their lives.
If you're still waiting for that postnatal joy, you might be living with PPD. Luckily, help is out there. The first step is identifying the problem and knowing where to seek help.
We've created this guide to help new moms understand the difference between "baby blues" and postpartum depression. We hope this information will help you or a mother you know pursue treatment for PPD.
Read on to learn all there is to know about this difficult diagnosis.
What Are the Baby Blues?
The first few days following birth are hard. Many parents, especially mothers, experience mood swings or feelings of depression in the days immediately following their labor and delivery. Professionals call these "the baby blues," and up to 80% of all new moms experience them.
Sometimes it takes a day or two for these "blue" feelings to strike. Remember, birth can be traumatic for the body. Your internal systems must keep up with the rapid change in hormones after birth, which takes some adjustment.
It takes most women two weeks or less to go through this adjustment period and for their mood and emotions to recalibrate. A change in routine can also sometimes contribute. If your eating and sleeping have been off since giving birth, these can add to your unstable mood.
Believe it or not, your partner might experience the baby blues, too. About 10% of partners experience similar mood swings or feelings of sadness after the birth of a new baby. The symptoms commonly stem from anxiety related to life changes and the aforementioned adjustments to eating and sleeping schedules.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Baby blues that last longer than two weeks may signify postpartum depression. In essence, PPD is a mood disorder characterized by negative moods and emotions persisting for more than two weeks after delivering a baby.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms Include:
- Panic attacks
- Racing thoughts
- Feelings of guilt
- Mood swings
- Uncontrollable crying
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Sleep deprivation
- Eating too much or too little
- Lack of interest in the baby, friends, family, or activities
- Difficulty making decisions
- Memory problems
- Self-harm ideation
If, at any time, you experience thoughts about harming your baby or yourself, seek help immediately. You can connect with a professional via text message by texting HOME to 741741. Call your doctor or healthcare provider so they can connect you with emergency resources.
What Causes Depression in New Moms?
Doctors agree that postpartum depression is complex and unlikely to have a single cause. Both emotional and biological factors contribute. Nothing a new mother does or does not do can cause her to develop PPD or other perinatal mood disorders.
Recent research suggests that there may be more biological factors involved than previously thought. Some bodies might struggle to dispose of old and unnecessary cellular material, such as extra protein. Doctors call this process "autophagy."
Essentially, when a woman has old genetic cells in their system, it can lead to toxicity that impacts the brain. These impacts can trigger feelings of depression and anxiety. That may be why the feelings persist beyond the initial two-week perinatal period (and why postpartum depression has links to other health problems later in life).
This research is still new, but professionals hope new treatments for PPD are on the horizon.
Coping With Postpartum Depression Symptoms
In the meantime, it's essential for new moms to find ways to cope with baby blues or postpartum depression. If you suspect you have PPD, begin by contacting your doctor. They will help you connect with the right professionals and pursue treatment.
In the meantime, there are many ways to cope with mood changes following delivery. Here are some things to try at home:
- Talk to your partner about your feelings and how they can support you
- Join online support groups on social media platforms
- Attend an in-person support group, if available
- Reach out to a relative about staying with you and the baby as you pursue treatment
- Try to incorporate gentle exercise into your daily routine to stimulate endorphin production
- Prioritize sleep, or speak to your doctor about using sleep aids
- Focus on essential day-to-day tasks and give yourself enough grace to put off less critical jobs
Postpartum depression is more than just sadness. It's a psychiatric condition. If you are struggling, you are worthy of treatment, and we encourage you to reach out and seek help.
Take the Stress Out of Parenting
Whether or not you experience postpartum depression, parenting a newborn can be isolating. While it may be difficult, we urge you to prioritize self-care and ask for help when needed. It takes a village to raise a child, and no woman can be an entire village for their baby.
If you're feeling out to sea on your parenting journey, you might benefit from the company of a virtual parenting companion. New moms love how the Pixsee smart baby monitor serves as a second set of eyes, making self-care possible, even with a new baby.