Women's Healthcare Topics

What's the Difference Between "Baby Blues" and Postpartum Depression?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Postpartum Mood Swings (Baby Blues)

Everyone expects the postpartum period (“postpartum” is another word for the period of time shortly after a woman gives birth) to be remembered as a time of joy and happiness with the arrival of your baby. But all too often many new moms will experience postpartum mood swings that makes this time anything but joyful and happy.

Almost every postpartum woman, up to 80%, has had postpartum mood swings within the first few days after giving birth. The symptoms are the worse around the fifth postpartum day and then tend to decrease and disappear during the second week after delivery.

Postpartum mood swings or baby blues are characterized with mild and rapid mood swings. Within 2 or 3 days after giving birth, women with postpartum blues might:

  • Be moody, irritable, or anxious

  • Have trouble concentrating or sleeping

  • Have crying spells

Although there are no conclusive data regarding the etiology of postpartum blues, multiple factors are probably involved. The dramatic hormonal changes after birth is likely to play a role. Although all women experience hormonal fluctuations after giving birth, some women may be more sensitive to these changes resulting in the baby blues.

Treatment of Postpartum Mood Swings

Postpartum mood swings usually go away over time, usually within two weeks. The best treatment is to include family and friends to give you adequate time for rest and even sleep. You also might want to have family members or close friends care for the baby at night.

If needed, you can use mild tranquilizers to relieve the symptoms of irritability and other negative feelings. The medication of choice is Clonazepam before bedtime. This medication will help you with the ability to fall asleep. Don’t use Alcohol to try and help with fallen asleep, it can exacerbate your mood swings.

If you are not breastfeeding you can talk to your physician about giving you estradiol transdermal patches(estrogen). The addition of estrogen greatly decreases the symptoms associated with the baby blues.

Remember your symptoms will subside in two weeks with postpartum mood swings (baby blues), but you should seek medical advice if the symptoms last longer. You may have postpartum depression.

Do you have Postpartum Depression and not the Baby Blues?

It can be hard to tell if a woman has postpartum depression, since some of the symptoms might also be caused by the stress of taking care of a newborn. For example, it’s normal for new mothers to:

  • Sleep too much or too little

  • Feel tired or lack energy

  • Have changes in their appetite and weight

But women with postpartum depression might not be able to sleep even when their babies sleep. Or they might have so little energy that they cannot get out of bed for hours.

They might also feel:

  • Anxious, irritable, and angry

  • Guilty or overwhelmed

  • Unable to care for their baby

  • Like a failure as a mother

What can be done about Postpartum Depression?

Learn about post partum baby blues or mood swings.

If you are experiencing any postpartum issues, you might not think nothing will help you – you may not even have the strength or self-worth to seek out help at all. It's important to have family and friends around you to support you however; you need and must seek professional help.

Your doctor will explain postpartum depression (PPD) with you in greater detail. Once you've discussed the various causes and concerns, you'll have choices in how to treat your postpartum issues:

  • There are antidepressant medications available which are not only safe and effective; there are many that have also been formulated to be safe for your baby if you are breast-feeding. Ask your doctor about SSRI or Tricyclic antidepressants which are shown to be safe for breast-feeding women like you.

  • Counseling, either with one-on-one through ‘cognitive-behavioral therapy', or even a great support group, has also been proven to work, giving you some very valuable coping tools and also letting you know you're still a normal and productive person and a great mother too.

  • You should ask your doctor about getting your hormonal levels and your thyroid gland checked out with the appropriate blood tests.

You deserve to feel great and love being a mom, and feel love for your baby. Remember PPD is treatable, and you can get better sooner and be the best for your baby. You are not being silly, lazy or cranky – you need professional help – please call you physician now.


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