Baby Blues: What’s Normal and What’s Not

Becoming a mom presents challenges. Whether it is your first child or your third, every pregnancy is unique. Just because you did not have the baby blues after the first baby does not guarantee that you will not experience sadness, or even postpartum depression, with the next. It is important to recognize what is normal as opposed to what may be cause for concern.

“Right after the baby is born our hormones go through a lot of changes so it is normal and natural to have some mood swings, crying spells and sleep difficulties right after birth,” said Dr. Victoria Kelly assistant professor and general psychiatry residency program director at the University of Toledo Medical Center. These issues are only troublesome when they last over time and cause problems.

Know what is normal for you

“Feeling sad and losing interest would be more problematic than simply having a crying spell,” said Dr, Kelly. Baby blues typically last a few weeks whereas postpartum depression can hit after a month or even 1 to 2 years after birth. “If a new mom has a history of struggling with depression, anxiety problems or managing stress I would recommend they preemptively get sleep and enlist support systems,” said Dr. Kelly. Women also need to look out for postpartum depressive compulsive disorder which is where you see intrusive distressing images of harm coming to your child and cannot get them out of your head. While it can be frightening, it is treatable with medications and therapies.

Dr. Victoria Kelly
Dr. Victoria Kelly

Set realistic pregnancy expectations

“The biggest thing that comes up is that some women may not feel like they have bonded with their baby right after birth and it is not all glowing and romantic the way movies would have you believe,” said Kelly. There are hormonal changes and brain changes that go along with the delivery process. Maternal instincts kick in and you may have hormonal issues like thyroid fluctuations or other physiologic reactions that cause problems with the endocrine system.

Early intervention yields the best results

There is no reason anyone should struggle with baby blues. “If it is causing dysfunction it may warrant a medical investigation by a primary care physician and possibly psychotherapy or medications,” said Kelly. Talk therapy can be helpful and sometimes antidepressant medications are used. Do not be afraid to reach out if you have questions or concerns.

“Often the postpartum wellness check up happens at about the 6 week mark and that is a long time to wait if you have more than the baby blues, and it is actually postpartum depression, so do not wait if you are not feeling better after about 2 weeks and check in,” said Kelly.

You are not alone

“Baby blues are usually within a week or two, postpartum and can have tearfulness, confusion, insomnia, anxiety, sleep disturbance or loss of sexual interest and 5 to 20 percent of women will have postpartum depression,” said Kelly. Moms have to accept that their identity changes and they go from being a wife to a mom. “There are physical changes, marriage changes, routine changes and the best thing we recommend is to make sure the communication is good between all parties involved,” said Kelly. You are not meant to do everything alone and should not feel guilt or pressure to do so. “Have a plan ahead of time, create new routines and take time for yourself,” said Kelly. Things like housework and social functions can wait as the priority should be allowing your body and brain to heal and rest after pregnancy.

Preparation makes all the difference

“There is never a perfect time to have a child because there are so many things that can be unknown about the process but I generally recommend if people are considering getting pregnant that they pursue it when they have an emotional and mental plan in place on how to deal with the stress, can communicate effectively with their partner and are able to understand the financial implications and life-changing routines that will be necessary to be able to be a healthy parent,” said Kelly. You can do it. “Take the time to rest, heal and figure out how you want to be a mom and do not let get society’s pressures or unrealistic images of what a perfect mom is get in the way of enjoying the life experience.”

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