Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
For a new Mother, emotional fluctuations, like going from joy to crying in a matter of a minute can be completely normal. Your body has just undergone a tremendous change, giving birth to the equivalent of a football or watermelon. Due to all the changes and adjustments still occurring, some emotional rollercoaster moments are to be expected. However, it’s also important to recognize when it might be something more, which you need some help to deal with.
The ‘Baby Blues’ are usually defined as periods of weepiness, anxiety, and irritability that generally occur between 3 and 10 days after birth, and last several hours to several days. Studies indicate 30-80% of all women will experience baby blues. The best treatment is to express your feelings, ask for more support, get plenty of rest, especially when the baby rests, eat well, and drink plenty of fluids.
Postpartum Depression (PPD) is thought to affect between 4 and 28 percent of all mothers. PPD can occur anytime in the first year postpartum, and sometimes extend beyond this time. Symptoms include: irritability, guilt, hopelessness, despair, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, confusion, inability to cope, thoughts of hurting oneself or baby, loss of normal interests, and a number of other symptoms.
What distinguishes PPD from baby blues is the duration, severity, and complexity of symptoms. Feeling some of these feelings doesn’t mean you have PPD, but if the symptoms are severe, you have many, or they are persistent, then speak with your health care provider. Studies have shown even talking with a therapist can lead to significant improvement (O’Hara et al. 2000). Interestingly, breastfeeding may play a protective role as it’s been shown that mothers who breastfeed may be significantly less likely to develop PPD (Abou-Saleh et al. 1998).
What you eat can also make a difference. The importance of proper nutrition cannot be underestimated, especially the need for essential fatty acids, protein, B vitamins, zinc, and iron. Significant blood loss during birth can also lead to anemia, which can predispose to depression. Low blood sugar and fatigue can also contribute, so ensuring enough caloric intake and enough rest can be helpful.
If you think you or someone you know is suffering from PPD, talk to your health care provider. The sooner help is sought, the better the chances are for a positive outcome.
1. Abou-Saleh, MT et al. “Hormonal aspects of postpartum depression” Psychoneuroendocrinology. (1998 July); 23(5):465-75.
2. O’Hara, MW et al. “Effect of interpersonal psychotherapy for postpartum depression.” Arc Gen Psychiatry. (2000 November); 57(11):1039-45.
3. Romm, A. 2002. Natural Health after Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness. Healing Arts Press.
I am a Naturopathic Doctor and Doula providing care in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. I have a passion for helping people with their health issues and improving the birth experience for Moms, and their babies. I also have a life long love affair with soccer, curling, and the alto saxophone.