Welcoming a new baby is a very big life event. Naturally, it can come with many strong emotions. You might feel joy, excitement and relief. Or you might feel overwhelmed, frustrated or disappointed. Maybe your baby’s birth didn’t go according to plan. If your baby needs additional medical care, your own feelings might seem unimportant.
Even in the best of the circumstances, the first few days after childbirth can be difficult. Your body is recovering and healing. Visits from relatives may add to your stress. You have a new baby to care for, and you’re not getting enough sleep. Financial strain can multiply your worry. On top of all this, hormone changes can cause emotional changes.
If you’re feeling down, it could be the baby blues, which pass more quickly, usually after a few days. Feelings that affect your daily life or last a while could be postpartum depression. If you have any concerns, reach out to your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Taking care of yourself is good for you and good for your baby too. Read on for information that could help you or a friend.
What are the symptoms of the baby blues?
It’s normal to feel down, anxious, or irritable during the first few days after giving birth. You may experience a variety of symptoms, such as:
· Trouble sleeping
· Mood swings
· Poor concentration
How can I take care of myself?
There are many things you can do to help protect your emotional health during this time:
· Ask for help from others with housework or care for older children.
· Get as much sleep, healthy food, exercise and emotional support as possible.
· Check in with your doctor if you have any concerns.
· If you’re facing challenges with breastfeeding, speak with a lactation consultant.
· Talk with your doctors about any medications you may be on. You can also talk to them about other things, like drinking caffeine or alcohol after having a baby.
· Join a support group for new mothers — ask your doctor about local options. For online groups, see the Postpartum Support International website at www.postpartum.net.
What if I don’t start feeling better?
The baby blues usually peak around the fourth day and then ease up in less than two weeks. If your low mood or anxiety lasts for more than two weeks, you may have postpartum depression (PPD). Symptoms can start during pregnancy or during the first year after childbirth. PPD affects about 1 in 8 new mothers.1
What are the symptoms of PPD?
Feelings of sadness may last for weeks or months and are more intense than those of baby blues. The symptoms can be different from person to person and may include:
· Withdrawing from loved ones or your baby
· Lack of energy
· Thinking about hurting yourself or your baby
· Doubting your ability to care for your baby
· Changes in appetite
· Aches or pains that don’t get better with treatment
Social, health and economic factors may increase your risk for PPD.
Anyone can experience postpartum depression. Some of the reasons you may be at greater risk of PPD include:
· You have a personal or family history of depression
· You’ve recently experienced stressful events
· You have a weak support system
Postpartum depression is treatable.
Most people get better with treatment. You are not to blame. Getting the help you need is nothing to feel ashamed of. Treatment may include medication, counseling and referrals to other resources. If you’re breastfeeding, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of medications.
Fathers can also experience postpartum depression.
Fathers may experience the symptoms of PPD.2 Like mothers, they may feel sad, tired, overwhelmed or anxious. Symptoms may start during their partner’s pregnancy or in the first year after their child’s birth. If a new dad is feeling depressed, he should speak with his doctor.
Help is available 24/7.
As always, if you’re feeling new emotions or have concerns, speak with a doctor. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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1. Bauman BL, Ko JY, Cox S, et al. Vital Signs: Postpartum Depressive Symptoms and Provider Discussions About Perinatal Depression — United States, 2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:575–581. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6919a2
2. Mayo Clinic. Postpartum depression. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20376617. Accessed June 26, 2022.