Is it postpartum depression or the baby blues?
Postpartum depression and the baby blues are often used interchangeably, however they spell out two very different postpartum experiences for women.
For up to two weeks after giving birth, a large majority of new moms experience the baby blues, which can include weepiness, anxiety, mood swings, feelings of stress and/or sleep concerns. But more than 14 percent of women experience a much more serious mood disorder called postpartum depression or PPD.
It is not a weakness, postpartum depression is a real disorder, and help is available.
The warning signs of postpartum depression can vary. However, you should see a doctor about possible PPD if:
You’re simply not yourself. For those with PPD, sadness, anxiety, weepiness or other uncharacteristic feelings can go on long after the first few weeks of motherhood. They can also appear during pregnancy or months after childbirth. If you feel out-of-sorts for longer than a few weeks, or you experience a dramatic change in emotions, it may be time to speak with a doctor.
Your symptoms are all-encompassing. PPD can cause you to become inundated with these heavy feelings. If you are completely overwhelmed by sadness, hopelessness, restlessness, irritability, exhaustion, anger, anxiety, shame or guilt, it can help to share your experience with your provider.
You cannot take care of yourself or your baby. The symptoms of PPD can interfere with your ability to handle daily tasks, such as caring for your baby or personal hygiene. You may also find that you have lost interest in the things you used to enjoy. If the way you are feeling is getting in the way of your life, an OB/GYN, therapist or your primary care provider can help.
Your thoughts are turning more intense. PPD can cause moms to have thoughts of harming their baby, death or suicide. If you are thinking of hurting yourself or your baby, put your baby in a safe place and act now by calling your doctor or mental health provider.
Postpartum depression does not discriminate. It can impact any woman regardless of income, age, race or ethnicity, culture, education, ease of pregnancy or number of children. It is a real, treatable psychological disorder. If left untreated it can last many months or years, but effective treatments are available.
What can I do about my postpartum depression?
- Don’t face PPD alone
- Seek help from a psychologist or other mental health provider, or contact your primary care provider.
- Talk openly about your feelings with your partner, friends and other mothers.
- Join a support group for mothers.
- Find a relative or close friend who can help you take care of the baby.
- Get as much rest as you can (even if you must ask for additional help with the baby).
- As soon as your doctor says it is OK, take walks or exercise.
- Be realistic about what you can achieve while taking care of the baby.
When it comes to PPD, early detection and treatment can make all the difference. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, either during pregnancy or after childbirth, a psychologist or other licensed mental health provider can help. There are effective treatments for PPD, including therapy and medications.
For additional help or support, visit or call:
- Crisis Text line- Text ‘TALK’ to 741-741
- Postpartum Support International-1-800-944-4773
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline-1-800-273-8255
Carri Folwaczny, MSN, RN, CPAN, is the Nurse Manager of the Mother Baby Unit, Lactation Services and Perinatal Education at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. She received her Master of Science in Nursing degree, with a focus in Nurse Administration, from Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va. and her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. Carri also holds a certification in Perianesthesia nursing from the American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing. She has cared for patients on the Mother Baby Unit at CRH for more than 10 years.