Your life after childbirth is supposed to be this wonderful and amazing time in which you blossom into motherhood and develop a deep and unbreakable bond with your newborn infant.
So why are you so sad and angry all the time?
One of two things could be happening: You may be experiencing the milder effects of the baby blues or you could be struggling with full-blown postpartum depression.
While both conditions need attention, there are notable differences between the two. It’s important not to disregard either.
So if you’re not sure where on the depression spectrum you are after having your child, here is some information on the differences between postpartum depression and the baby blues:
What Causes Depression After Child Birth?
At its core, both postpartum depression and baby blues are caused by sudden hormonal changes that occur after birth. These changes include a drop in estrogen and progesterone as well as changes in the thyroid.
But it’s not all hormonal – depression following birth can be caused by physical changes such as pain, poor body image, and stress. This stems from the fact that your body went through some amazing and difficult changes to accommodate your growing child.
And that’s not all… Significant changes in your life can lead to depression as well. After a baby is born, you are looking at a huge change in your sleeping routine as well as monstrous shifts in the way you live your day-to-day life.
All in all, postpartum depression as well as the baby blues are caused by pretty common changes that happen after you have a baby.
Needless to say, experience either is completely normal.
The Difference Between the Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
The symptoms of both the baby blues and postpartum depression can be very similar, yet postpartum depression tends to last longer and be more intense.
Baby blues, on the other hand, present symptoms of depression that are typically milder and only last for a few weeks.
However, the symptoms of either can fluctuate where one symptom (such as feeling worthlessness) may feel more intense with others (such as foggy thinking) may seem milder.
Only a trained medical professional can really determine which one you have but, with some self-monitoring, you can get a pretty good idea of which one you are struggling with.
How Do I Know Which One I Have?
Here’s a little self-quiz to give you an idea of whether you are experiencing postpartum depression or the baby blues:
- Sleep deprivation makes me feel…
- Bonding with my baby…
- Happened almost immediately after birth.
- Didn’t happen immediately, but eventually.
- Is very difficult.
- The changes in my life…
- Are exciting.
- Are overwhelming.
- Are impossible to deal with.
- My mind is…
- Forgetful and distracted.
- Foggy and unclear.
- Full of scary and distracting thoughts.
- I cry because I’m…
- I worry…
- About normal mom things.
- About things I probably shouldn’t worry about.
- If I’m fit enough to be a mother.
- Most of the time I feel…
- Happy and hopeful.
- Emotional and weepy.
- When I think of the future, I…
- See future possibilities.
- Think ahead further than I probably should.
- Don’t think of the future.
- When I leave the house, I…
- Look forward to it.
- Feel anxious.
- Avoid leaving the house.
- After a few weeks, I find…
- I’m getting into a good routine.
- I’m starting to feel better.
- I’m getting worse.
If you answered mostly a’s: You’re likely not experiencing any underlying emotional issues.
If you answered mostly b’s: You are probably experiencing the baby blues, which tend to go away once you settle into your new routine.
If you answered mostly: c’s: You could be suffering from postpartum depression, which can not only be a struggle but debilitating as well.
These results are just a simple way to gauge your experience. When in doubt, talk it out – with a doctor.
Who Are at Risk of Postpartum Depression?
Seriously, though, a woman may be considered at risk for postpartum depression if she has a history of postpartum or non-pregnancy-related depression.
A lack of emotional support can also lead to postpartum depression.
Motherhood is hard, there’s no doubt about it. Feeling low and defeated is a normal part of transitioning into this new phase of your life.
However, it shouldn’t be so difficult that you want to completely give up. This is why recognizing and treating postpartum depression is so important.
Diagnosing Postpartum Depression
Diagnosing both the baby blues and postpartum depression is the same – it is the results that will determine which you have.
Only a doctor can properly diagnose either form of depression. He or she will do this by evaluating your feelings, thoughts, and overall mental health. This is typically done through a discussion or questionnaire.
In order to accurately diagnose postpartum depression or baby blues, it’s important that you be open and honest with your doctor.
They are not there to judge – they are there to help you. There’s no need to feel embarrassed disclosing how you feel to a health professional.
Your doctor may also ask that you have blood work done to determine if issues with your thyroid are contributing to your systems and to also rule out any other causes.
How to Treat Postpartum Depression
Treatment for postpartum depression varies from person to person based on symptoms and your individual needs.
If there is an issue with your thyroid, for instance, you may be referred to a specialist. If your doctor is concerned about your mental condition, you may be referred to a mental health professional.
Otherwise, your doctor will likely prescribe you an anti-depressant to help manage your symptoms. Most anti-depressants are completely safe for mothers who breastfeed.
When it comes to handling your depression, there are steps you can take in your day-to-day life to help alleviate the struggle and live a more happy and balanced mom life:
- Make time for self-care. You may be a mother now, but you are still a unique individual with unique needs. Schedule time in your day when you can focus on what makes you relaxed and happy – even if it’s for short periods of time.
- Ask for help. Whether you have a partner or not, there is no shame in asking for outside help. Reach out to friends and family members to help you with simple tasks like cooking, cleaning, or even to watch your little one so you can get some rest.
- Stop trying to be perfect. Motherhood is all about accepting “good enough” as a normal standard. The more you try to do everything perfectly, the more you will feel disappointed.
- Write it out. Motherhood is also confusing, so keeping a journal to sort out your thoughts is a great way to clear your head and look at your struggles from a different perspective.
By combining medication with positive changes in your life, you’ll notice a significant difference in the way depression affects your mom life.
You Got This, Mama!
Postpartum depression and baby blues are common in every mother’s life but you shouldn’t be expected to take it in stride just because every mother suffers from it.
There is help out there and, if you are dealing with any form of depression, I highly recommend you seek it.