Baby Blues Vs Postpartum Depression

1. Introduction

Quite often, as soon-to-be mums, we are so focused on our pregnancy, upcoming birth, or choosing the perfect pram, that it’s easy to let postpartum life slip our minds.

When you think about it, our postpartum and parenting journey is far longer than pregnancy and birth, yet it’s often not until our little bundles are here that many of us stop to give them some thought.

Here at Hera, we believe the more real and honest conversations we have about our mental health as mums, the better.

So on that note, let’s chat: baby blues and postpartum depression.

Maybe you’ve heard the terms, but what do they mean, and what’s the difference?

And importantly, what should you do if you think you may be experiencing them?

Introduction

2. So, what are the baby blues?

You might be expecting your first days as a new mum to be filled with, sure a bit of tiredness, but mostly happiness and joy (you finally get to meet your gorgeous baby after all) but for many women - about 80% in fact - they can experience feelings of sadness after giving birth, which is commonly referred to as the baby blues.

The blues will often kick in 2-5 days after birth and can last up to 2 weeks, usually going away on their own without medical treatment.

So, what are the baby blues?

3. What causes them?

There’s no one clear-cut answer, but many experts believe the sudden drop in our hormone levels after birth plays a big part.

Straight after birth, our estrogen and progesterone levels take a huge dive. We then get a surge of oxytocin (the happy hormone), but this too will start to drop over the following days, all while prolactin levels increase to assist with milk production.

On top of all the invisible hormone changes, add perhaps a challenging birth experience, sleep deprivation, painful boobs, maybe lack of good nutrition… and it’s easy to see how you may not feel, well...quite like yourself.

What causes them?

4. What might the baby blues feel like?

If you find yourself laying on the floor crying for no particular reason a few days after birth (we speak from experience on this one!) - you may be experiencing the baby blues, and you’re definitely not alone.

You may also:

- Feel angry or moody

- Feel anxious, or overwhelmed at your new responsibilities

- Have trouble sleeping, or making decisions

- Feel lonely, sad, or isolated

- Not feel any bond or attachment to your baby

- Miss parts of your old life, and the freedom you had before baby

- Not have a big appetite

What might the baby blues feel like?

5. What can you do about them?

Sometimes, simply being aware of what the baby blues are can help. Being able to reassure yourself that they are very common and will very likely go away on their own after a few days.

Support from your partner, family, and friends can also help. Let them know how you’re feeling and how they can help. (Don’t be too proud to put your hand up for help, now is the time Mumma!)

Try to get out of the house for some fresh air, sunshine, or time by yourself. Or connect with other new mums. There’s nothing quite like having a good chat, laugh or cry with a fellow mum who is also navigating the highs and lows of postpartum life. The Hera Village on the app was created for this reason, to provide a safe, no judgmental space to meet like-minded mums.

What can you do about them?

6. Baby blues and postpartum depression - what’s the difference?

Postpartum depression is serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly, so it’s important to know how to spot the signs.

If you’re ever in doubt, the best thing you can do is talk to a medical professional, but there are two key factors that might help you distinguish between the two.

Baby blues and postpartum depression - what’s the difference?

7. When they start, and how long they last

While the baby blues aren’t pleasant, the symptoms should be relatively mild and ease on their own after a few days, or at most up to 2 weeks.

If you’re still feeling sad, teary, or anxious after 2 weeks, it’s worth talking to your healthcare professional.

Pay attention to when these feelings begin as well, as this can also be an indicator.

Baby blues set in pretty quickly after birth (usually within 2-5 days), whereas postnatal depression can occur at any time in the year after having a baby.

When they start, and how long they last

8. Severity of symptoms

This can be a little tricky to pinpoint, as when it comes to mental and emotional health we all have different definitions of “severe”, but generally speaking, the symptoms of postnatal depression are very powerful, last longer, and can impact your day to day life.

Postpartum depression can include severe exhaustion, anger, mood swings, anxiety, a sense of hopelessness, or thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

The combination of symptoms will be different for every parent but often can be so intense and overwhelming, it can be difficult to care for your new baby or yourself.

So, Mumma, if you find yourself experiencing severe feelings or thoughts at ANY time after giving birth, OR, if you’re still not feeling yourself after 2 weeks, please, give your doctor a call.

Please also check out the further resources below, if you, or someone you know needs support.

Beyond Blue - https://www.beyondblue.org.au

Lifeline - https://www.lifeline.org.au

PANDA - https://www.panda.org.au

Severity of symptoms