Many new moms feel a jumble of unexpected emotions in the days, weeks and months after their baby is born. Moods can vary from joy to exhaustion to sadness in the span of just a few minutes. Have you found yourself asking, “Am I okay? Should I feel this tired? Why am I crying all the time? Is this normal?” If you are asking yourself these questions, I’ve got good news for you. Yes, this is totally normal.
Most of the time, the symptoms and emotions I’ve described are a result of the postpartum “baby blues,” a natural process in the weeks after your baby is born. However, if your symptoms are severe or last longer than a couple weeks, they might be a sign of postpartum depression.
A common distinction I often discuss with my patients, below are some differences between the two.
Postpartum “Baby Blues”
Almost every new mom experiences some form of the “baby blues,” and they’re a totally normal part of pregnancy and childbirth. The most commonly reported symptoms include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety, irritability, feeling overwhelmed and having trouble sleeping.
There are a number of potential explanations for the baby blues. After your baby is born, your hormones fluctuate as they begin to return to normal. You also might be sleep-deprived or overwhelmed with caring for a newborn baby and balancing your responsibilities. These are normal reactions to the experience of childbirth and aren’t usually a cause for concern.
Some women have also reported feeling pressure and concern about their ability to produce enough milk for a breastfeeding baby. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should try to breastfeed your child exclusively for six months, which can seem like a difficult or daunting task. However, partial breastfeeding provides many of the same benefits to your baby that exclusive breastfeeding would, including oral development, disease and immunology benefits, and nutritional benefits. If you’re breastfeeding and supplementing with formula, don’t worry – you’re still providing many important benefits to your baby.
Experiencing mood swings and anxiety in the first week or two after your baby is born is perfectly normal. But if it’s been longer than two weeks, it might be more serious than the standard “baby blues.”
Some new moms experience postpartum depression, a more severe, long-lasting form of symptoms similar to the “baby blues.” Some common symptoms of postpartum depression include severe mood swings, debilitating anxiety, excessive crying, overwhelming fatigue, loss of appetite, inability to sleep or withdrawing from friends and family.
Some moms with postpartum depression have also reported difficulty bonding with their baby, feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy, fear that they’re not a good mother and thoughts of harming themselves or their baby.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to remember that postpartum depression is not your fault. Many women experience postpartum depression, and your doctor can provide you with simple and effective solutions to manage your symptoms and provide a safe and happy environment for your baby.
It can be difficult for some new moms to tell the difference between the “baby blues” and postpartum depression. For example, if you feel nervous or anxious before taking your new baby for an outing, that can be a normal concern. But if you’re so fearful of something bad happening to your child that you’ve stopped leaving the house, that might be a sign of postpartum depression.
When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to contact your OB/GYN. We can help you sort through your symptoms and come up with the treatment plan that’s best for you.
If you have additional questions or would like to schedule an appointment with myself or any of the OB/GYN Center staff, you can call 303-788-6657 or visit our website.
** This blog post was written to serve as informational guidance about postpartum emotions and should not be taken as concrete medical advice, nor do the views above reflect the views of OB/GYN Center or the HealthONE organization. As with any medical questions or concerns, it’s imperative to make an appointment with your physician for proper counseling.
Tiffany Richason, MD, practices gynecology and obstetrics at OB/GYN Center. She earned her medical degree at the University of Colorado and completed her residency training at Exempla Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Denver. Dr. Richason is trained in leading-edge technologies, including minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic surgery. She also loves obstetrics and feels blessed and privileged to join you as you welcome a baby into your lives.