Having a baby can wreak havoc on a woman’s physical and mental health. As natural as pregnancy may seem, growing a tiny human in your womb causes significant physical and hormonal changes in the body. This can cause one of three results: baby blues, postpartum depression or normal adjustments.
Knowing the difference is important, since confusing postpartum for baby blues can lead to a lack of important treatment. Keep in mind that the symptoms of each can fluctuate and not all symptoms are required in order to be diagnosed either way. Most symptoms are very similar, including mood swings, crying, insomnia and irritability, with postpartum depression symptoms being more severe and debilitating.
Both postpartum depression and baby blues are caused by sudden hormonal changes after birth such as a drop in estrogen and progesterone and changes in the thyroid. Physical changes happen because of the accommodations made by the body to support the growth of a child – these changes can lead to pain, poor body image and stress.
A woman may be considered at risk for postpartum depression if she has a history of postpartum depression or non-pregnancy related depression. A lack of emotional and social support can lead to postpartum depression as well.
Comparing Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
While the symptoms of each appear to be similar, the baby blues may last for a few weeks whereas postpartum depression can last much longer and be more intense.
This comparison is not a strict guideline of symptoms for baby blues and postpartum depression. The symptoms can fluctuate and where one symptom may feel more intense (such as feelings of worthlessness), others may seem more mild (such as foggy thinking).
|Baby Blues||Postpartum Depression||Normal|
|Sleep deprivation makes you…||emotional||angry||feel tired|
|Bonding with your infant…||doesn’t happen immediately||never happens||happens shortly after birth|
|Changes in life make you feel…||overwhelmed||worthless||excited|
|You cry because you feel…||sadness||frustration||joy|
|Your mind is…||foggy and unclear||focused on bad thoughts||forgetful and distracted|
|You worry about…||unimportant things||if you are fit to be a mother||if your baby is pooping enough|
|After a few weeks you feel…||better||worse||like you have a good routine|
Diagnosis and Treatment
The diagnosis process for both the baby blues and postpartum depression is the same – it is the results that will determine which you have.
In order to diagnose, your doctor will evaluate your feelings, thoughts and mental health, usually through a discussion or questionnaire. It is important that you be open and honest with your doctor about your thoughts and feelings in order to receive an accurate diagnosis. Never feel embarrassed to disclose to a health professional – postpartum depression and the baby blues are common.
Your doctor may also order blood work to determine if an under-active thyroid is contributing to your symptoms and to also rule out any other causes.
Treatment can vary from person to person based on symptoms and individual needs. If issue lies in your thyroid, you may be referred to a specialist. If your doctor is concerned about your mental condition, you may be referred to a mental professional.
Otherwise, it is likely that your doctor will prescribe you an anti-depressant to help manage your symptoms. Most anti-depressants are completely safe for mothers who breastfeed.
Overall, your doctor will know the best treatment course for your situation.
If you ever have any concern about your health post-pregnancy, do not hesitate to contact a health care professional.