Bringing a new life into the world is an incredible journey, but it is not without its emotional twists and turns. As many as eight out of ten women get what is known as the baby blues. Out of these ten women, one will develop postnatal depression. You’re probably experiencing the whirlwind of the postpartum period, and you’re wondering if how you are feeling is baby blues, or something a little more sinister like postnatal depression. In this article, we’ll explore the difference between the two and help you identify if action is needed.

The Baby Blues: A Common Visitor

Lets start with the baby blues.

You’ve probably heard of the term, or maybe even experienced it first-hand. Baby blues are a normal part of the postpartum period, and nearly every woman will experience them…but some experience them worse than others.

They’re temporary emotional changes that typically begin within the first week after giving birth and will last around 2 weeks after that. These volatile emotions are a response to the significant hormonal changes your body goes through during and after childbirth.

 

 

Postnatal Depression: A Different Story

Now let’s delve into postnatal depression. A condition that deserves our attention and we must be aware of.

The baby blues come and go, but it is postnatal depression that sticks around and will linger.

Postnatal depression can deeply impact a new mothers emotional well-being, and if you have suffered with depression or anxiety in the past, you are more likely to suffer from it then someone who hasn’t.

It is essential to distinguish this condition from baby blues, to ensure that you receive support you require.

 

 

Causes and Risk Factors of Postnatal Depression

You may be sat up in the middle of the night feeling like you are going crazy, or just completely overwhelmed with emotion, wondering if this is something that you have done, or where has this come from?

We want to take this second to let you know that having baby blues or postnatal depression is NOT YOUR FAULT! This has absolutely nothing to do with you, what you have or haven’t done, or if you are a good person or not.

Actually, there is a lot more to it. 

Here are some common causes and risk factors of postnatal depression:

  • Hormone change post-birth – Completely separate to baby blues, this hormonal switch can trigger depression
  • Physical changes – Lack of sleep, exhaustion after giving birth and the constant caring for your new baby around the clock can contribute and worsen symptoms of postnatal depression
  • Previous mental health issues – If you have suffered with your mental health in the past, in particular if you have ever been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder, you are at a higher risk of developing postnatal depression
  • Stressful life events – If there is a major event in your life, like the loss of a close family member, job loss or issues with a romantic partner, this can increase the risk
  • Lack of support – A risk factor that often surprises people. Lack of support (emotionally and physically) from your partner, family, or friends can lead to postnatal depression. And yes, this does include support like doing things to help you with your baby. 
  • Complications during pregnancy and/or child-birth – Women who experience complications during pregnancy, a difficult birth, or have a baby with health problems may be more likely to develop postnatal depression
  • Previous postnatal depression
  • Struggling to breastfeed – This can lead new-Mum’s to feel inadequate, a failure and like they aren’t a good Mum, which can trigger postnatal depression.
  • Unplanned or unwanted pregnancies

 

Differentiating the Two

10-20% of women will develop some kind of mental health problem during pregnancy or 1 year postpartum

It’s important that we are able to distinguish the different between baby blues and postnatal depression, as the latter can have severe and long-lasting consequences if left untreated.

Below is our comparison table, to help you understand the difference:

If you or someone you know is experiencing persistent symptoms beyond the first few weeks after childbirth, and these symptoms are in line with postnatal depression, you need to reach out to your GP or healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Postnatal depression is a treatable condition and the earlier you act can make a difference in a Mother’s recovery and overall well-being.

 

Self-care and Coping Strategies

The postnatal period is a time of immense change, circumstantial, physical and emotional.

It isn’t talked about enough, but it is normal for the first few weeks after giving-birth feeling all a bit overwhelming and too much. Remember that baby blues are a normal step in the postpartum period. Those fluctuating emotions are your body going through the changes and starting the healing process.

But that doesn’t make it easy. Baby blues can be confusing and you may find yourself wondering if these feelings are normal?

We are here to reassure you…yes, they are.

It is when these feelings just don’t seem to go away past what we expect in the period of baby blues, and if these feelings feel more severe than needing a good 30-minute crying session. And if these feelings and symptoms disrupt your daily life, it is time to reach out.

You must listen to your emotions. Ignoring them will not make them go away. Doing that will just kick the problem further down the road.

Please, do not hesitate to reach out when you need help. Equally, if you are someone reading this knowing someone in the postnatal period, check in on them too.

There is support available for you. You do not have to navigate these feelings alone.

 

Seeking Help or a Diagnosis

We want to help as best as we can. We dream of one day being able to offer a postnatal mental and emotional health service available for you. But in the meantime, below is some tips for getting the help you need:

  • Speak with someone that you trust, about how you have been feeling. You need support right now.
  • Make an appointment with your GP to discuss how you have been feeling and your options
  • Ask for a referral from your GP to the perinatal mental health services
  • Speak to your Midwife or Health Visitor about how you have been feeling. They may also be able to make the referral for you.
  • If you are in a crisis and need help right away, please call emergency services.
  • It is likely there are local charities and initiatives that may be able to help you. Try searching for them online.
  • Take a walk down to your local community centre or doctors surgery, often times there are leaflets available with information.
  • Mental Health Crisis Team, call 111

 

Before you go

Are you struggling with your mental and emotional well-being since giving birth, and don’t know where to start? Read our postpartum self care – start here! blog to help you take that first step.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Read more about this topic

What is the difference between baby blues and postnatal depression?
The main difference between baby blues and postnatal depression is the length and severity. Baby blues last a few weeks, whereas postnatal depression will continue for longer (and will be continuous). Baby blues are likened to mood swings, where the feelings come and go throughout the day. The symptoms of postnatal depression on the other are present, to some degree, all of the time.
Are baby blues common after giving birth, and when do they occur?
Yes, baby blues are very common after giving birth! As a matter of fact, most new Mothers will experience them. Baby blues are likely to develop around day 2 after having your baby.
How long do baby blues typically last, and when should I be concerned?
Baby blues typically last a few weeks. 2-3 weeks. If you find your symptoms of baby blues are carrying on past this point and into weeks 4, 5 and onward, you should make an appointment to speak to your GP.
What are the signs and symptoms of postnatal depression?
  • Persistent sadness or feeling low
  • Sleeping too much or not sleeping at all
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Changes in appetite. Suddenly very hungry or not hungry at all – but a distinct change to your typical eating patterns.
  • Lack of interest in things you once enjoyed
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Withdrawing yourself from social situations, family and friends
  • Thoughts of harming yourself and/or your baby
Can postpartum depression develop after the baby blues phase?
Yes. It is possible to develop postnatal depression after getting through the baby blues. This is why it is so important to understand the two!
Are there risk factors that increase the likelihood of postnatal depression?
Yes, three risk factors that increase the likelihood of postnatal depression are:

  1. Previous mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD etc..
  2. Experiencing domestic violence in your current relationship
  3. Lack of support in the postpartum period
What should I do if I suspect I have postnatal depression?
The first thing is to reach out to someone that you trust, and tell them how you are feeling and that you think you may have postnatal depression. By doing this first, we hope that you will have support throughout the process of the next step, which is speaking to your GP or healthcare provider. It is important that you discuss your symptoms, how you have been feeling and to be completely honest. Then a treatment plan can be made.
Can postnatal depression affect both new mothers and fathers?
Yes, this is right. New-Mum’s and Dad’s can develop postnatal depression, although how it is developed is different. It is also important to recognise that if Mum is suffering from postnatal depression, this will also impact Dad too, as he will need to support Mum even more (and visa versa).
Are there effective treatments for postnatal depression, and what are they?
Yes, there are many:

  • Therapy or counselling – One-to-one sessions where you can address how you are feeling, explore why and when this has happened and develop coping strategies.
  • Support groups – Joining a support group can provide you with connection and sense of community, which is a pillar of well-being. You can meet other people and share your experiences and listen to theirs. You may even find a friend here. It can be very comforting and reassuring to meet others going through a similar experience.
  • Lifestyle changes – Modifying your lifestyle by getting regular exercise, eating as healthily as you can and adequate sleep.
  • Medication – In more severe cases, medication may be prescribed. This should be discussed in-depth with your GP or healthcare provider.
  • Self-care practises – These can include taking breaks, setting boundaries and carving out time for yourself and the things you enjoy. This is vital when managing postnatal depression. Read our blog about self-care here.
How can I support a loved one who may be experiencing postpartum depression?
The first thing you can do is to look out for signs, and become familiar with the patterns that your loved one goes through. You may be able to pinpoint some triggers. Next is to provide a safe and caring place for your loved one to talk. This could be regularly checking in with them and giving them a chance to talk, if they want to. Encourage them to seek help and perhaps offer to go with them to an appointment, or to help them do something they are struggling with. Remember to always be open and non-judgemental.

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