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Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues

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When I fell pregnant with my first child at 43, my wise sister advised me that I needed to be aware of the “BABY BLUES”, especially as an expat in a new country we had no family or friends for support. I explained to my husband if I began behaving ‘oddly’ he should call my sister and I was certain I’d listen to her counsel. As it happened, I wasn’t affected.

I have known many women however who haven’t been so fortunate, including one Mother who suffered so badly she couldn’t hold or nurse her son. That was 35 years ago and it impacted so heavily, she never had more children. Of course back then it wasn’t named, discussed or supported by professionals, so Mum’s were left to suffer alone.

Having a baby is stressful – regardless of how much you’ve looked forward to it or how much you love your child. The baby blues are perfectly normal, but if your symptoms don’t go away after a few weeks or get worse, you may have postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can interfere with your ability to take care of your child, so it’s important to get help right away. With treatment and support, you can get back on the road to a happy motherhood.

You were prepared for joy and excitement, not exhaustion, anxiety, and weepiness. You may not have been expecting it, but mild depression and mood swings are common in new mothers—so common, in fact, that it has its own name: the “baby blues”. The vast majority of new mothers experience at least some symptoms of the baby blues, including moodiness, sadness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, appetite changes or concentration problems. Symptoms of the baby blues typically show up within a few days of giving birth and last from several days to a couple of weeks.

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The baby blues are a normal part of new motherhood—probably caused by the hormonal changes that occur following birth. If you have them, there is no cause for undue worry. You’ll feel better once your hormones level out. Aside from the support of your loved ones and plenty of rest, no treatment is necessary.

Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression

Unlike the baby blues, postpartum depression is a more serious problem – one that you shouldn’t ignore. However, it’s not always easy to distinguish between the two. In the beginning, postpartum depression can look like the normal baby blues. In fact, postpartum depression and the baby blues share many symptoms, including mood swings, crying, sadness, insomnia, and irritability. The difference is that with postpartum depression, the symptoms are more severe (such as suicidal thoughts or an inability to care for your newborn) and longer lasting.

  • Lack of interest in your baby
  • Negative feelings towards your baby
  • Worrying about hurting your baby
  • Lack of concern for yourself
  • Loss of pleasure
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Postpartum depression usually sets in soon after childbirth and develops gradually over a period of several months, but it can also come on suddenly and in some women, the first signs don’t appear until months, after they’ve given birth.

Risk factors for postpartum depression

Some women are more likely than others to develop postpartum depression. The following factors put you at an increased risk:

  • Previous history of depression
  • History of severe PMS
  • Medical complications for you or your baby
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Lack of support from family or friends

If you or someone you love has been exhibiting any of these behaviors, seek medical help IMMEDIATELY. With support you can get back to enjoying your baby and your life.

Michelle Bailey
Coach and Director EMEA Business Development

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