What are postpartum blues?
Postpartum blues often appear three or four days after childbirth and can last up to two weeks. In the U.S., 70% to 80% of women feel depressed after giving birth. This can be called the “baby blues” or the postpartum blues and the cause is typically hormones. Symptoms of postpartum blues include crying spells, insomnia, depression, fatigue, anxiety, and poor concentration. Symptoms occur due to physical and hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and changes in your diet and exercise. The hormonal changes occur because estrogen and progesterone decrease after giving birth.
Postpartum depression, or PPD, is not the same as postpartum blues. PPD may look like postpartum blues initially, but symptoms are more severe and last longer than two weeks. Unlike postpartum depression, postpartum blues usually go away after 1-2 weeks on its own.
What do the postpartum blues feel like?
You may feel like you can’t take care of your baby. You could feel symptoms of depression such as anger, anxiety, sadness, or distress. It’s normal not to feel close to your newborn during the first few weeks. Bonding can take time and typically occurs during the first year of life. Skin to skin contact (laying your baby directly on your bare skin) and gazing into your baby’s eyes can help you bond with your baby.
Can my partner have the postpartum blues?
Your partner (if you have one) can also get the baby blues. This occurs in up to 10% of partners. It usually happens during the first 3-6 months post-delivery but can develop up to a year after delivery. Symptoms include social isolation, anger, moodiness, loss of interest in work or hobbies, frustration, sadness, hopelessness, feeling overwhelmed, trouble sleeping, or indecisiveness. The symptoms can occur due to lack of sleep, relationship stress, general stress, or hormonal changes (e.g., a drop in testosterone levels as well as a rise in other hormones such as estrogen, cortisol, vasopressin, and/or prolactin).
Tips to help with the baby blues:
- Try to get as much sleep as you can. Nap when your baby naps.
- Reach out to others for support (emotional support, practical support, and informational support). Prepare a list of what you need help with.
- If possible, take some time for yourself.
- Try to get some fresh air and sunshine outside.
- Join a support group for parents or new moms.
- Make healthy choices when it comes to nutrition and exercise.
- Avoid alcohol or drugs.