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While becoming a mother must be nothing but a happy and joyous event, you may quickly develop feelings of sadness and severe mood swings. After all, your body has spent nine months growing a new life, and the task is big enough to take a major toll on your body and mind. Not to forget that the labor and delivery process is one of the most intense physical experiences the human body can ever endure.

Then suddenly, you have a new member in your life, and even though you have eagerly anticipated your baby’s arrival, it can cause a massive change in your life. So as you struggle to feed, bathe, and put the baby to sleep every day, you struggle from within. Your hormone levels fluctuate, your eating habits are taking a drastic turn, and your emotional state is going through a rapid adjustment to the new parenthood.

Given the sheer stress and overwhelmed circumstances, it’s natural to undergo a mood shift, usually referred to as postpartum blues or baby blues. Postpartum blues are prevalent in new mothers, and most can overcome them within a few days. But for some, the condition continues to worsen, leading to a much more serious mental health disorder called postpartum depression (PPD). It is crucial to learn the difference between postpartum blues vs. depression, as the latter can be tough to manage and requires medical help.

There is a significant difference between postpartum blues and postpartum depression in terms of symptoms. While the former tends to be milder in severity, the latter significantly affects every aspect of life and comes with more challenges and difficulties.

Following are some common postpartum blues symptoms that all new moms typically develop:

  • Trouble eating and concentrating
  • Impatience
  • Occasional anxious thoughts
  • Feeling cranky or overwhelmed
  • Grumpiness and irritability
  • Doubting the ability to take care of the new baby
  • Exhaustion
  • Experiencing sudden feelings of sadness
  • Crying over minor things
  • Struggling to make decisions
  • Trouble with sleep

Postpartum depression, on the other hand, hits much more severely, leading to symptoms like:

  • Constant anger, restlessness, and irritability
  • Decreased appetite
  • Excessive crying
  • Low self-worth
  • Feeling as if you have failed as a parent
  • Extremely low energy
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Feeling disconnected from life
  • Obsessive racing thoughts
  • Problems bonding with baby
  • Wanting to run away from life
  • Withdrawing from friends and family

In addition to the severity of symptoms, baby blues also differ from postpartum depression in terms of the timeline of these symptoms.

Mentioned below is an overview of the postpartum depression timeline:

Prenatal

Many women develop prenatal anxiety, usually 3 or 4 months before giving birth. These symptoms tend to linger even after delivering the baby and may eventually become postpartum depression disorders.

Intermediate

Most women start experiencing postpartum depression symptoms immediately after giving birth. These symptoms typically begin within 48 hours and may last up to 4 weeks post-childbirth. They are often acute and severe and can debilitate any mother’s life.

One to Six Months Postpartum

This time duration is when mothers are most vulnerable to developing severe symptoms of PPD.  Most of them, however, experience gradual resolution until six months.

Six Months to One Year Postpartum

Some women do not develop postpartum symptoms until six months following childbirth. Known as delayed PPD, these symptoms can be easily shocking for many as they are not anticipating it.

One to Four Years Postpartum

Rarely do some women report developing PPD symptoms up to four years following childbirth. These long-term symptoms can be challenging to cope with and may affect the quality of life of the entire family.

Postpartum Blues Timeline

The timeline for postpartum blues is much shorter, and the symptoms may develop within two to three days following birth. These symptoms are not persistent like those of PPD and typically occur for a few minutes to a few hours daily. They tend to peak within 7-9 days and eventually subside within 14 days after childbirth.

Baby blues will likely fade within the first two weeks following childbirth as the mothers learn to adjust to their new lives. In the meantime, experts suggest practicing the following tips to come out of a postpartum slump:

Lower the bar

Remind yourself that these overwhelming feelings are only temporary, and you will likely feel much more comfortable within a few weeks, if not days. So, for now, lower your expectations of yourself and remind yourself that no one can be a perfect parent.

Ask for support

Taking care of a newborn with regular feeding sessions, frequent nappy changes, piles of dirty laundry, and dishes all by yourself can be beyond depressing. If you have a partner or a loved one you can rely on, don’t be ashamed to ask for help.

Treat yourself

Consider arranging a movie night or going out for a dinner date with your partner. If none of these work for you, book a spa appointment or take a long, peaceful shower. Making yourself a priority now and then can help you quickly get out of postpartum blues.

Get out of the house

A change of scenery and some fresh air can do wonders for your mental health. If possible, try planning an outing at least once a day. It does not always have to be something big, including taking your baby to a park or going for a walk with friends.

Rely on healthy snacks

It is common for new moms to get too busy caring for their babies to feed themselves. Your blood sugar plays a great role in determining your energy levels and overall mood. So even if you are not eating proper meals, take some time to slip in some healthy snacks, such as fruit, trail mix, and cheese sticks, in your daily routine every few hours.

Stay well-hydrated

All new moms, especially the ones breastfeeding their newborns, must maintain an adequate hydration stash. Keep a bottle of water or flavored seltzer handy and take frequent small sips throughout the day. At the same time, try easing up on alcohol, as it can dry you out and make you feel worse.

Cry your heart out

Sometimes, all you need is a good cry to feel better. Find someone who you can confide and share all your problems with. Venting out can help you get over your baby blues sooner than anticipated. But as soon as you are done, don’t forget to laugh a little in whatever way you can: finding silly memes on the internet or watching your favorite sitcom.

If you suspect to have postpartum depression, it is imperative to contact a healthcare provider immediately. Even if you are not entirely sure whether you have PPD or just coping with baby blues, getting professional help is necessary. Professional treatment, especially in the case of PPD, can make a huge difference in the quality of your life and the health of the newborn.

Treatment for PPD typically depends on the symptoms and severity of the condition. While social support and self-care are enough to overcome mild baby blues, postpartum depression usually requires formal treatment from a qualified expert. However, having a solid support system and practicing self-care tips seem to increase the outcome and speed up recovery.

A healthcare provider may treat postpartum depression through a combination of medications, support groups, psychotherapy, and self-care. Getting help from family and friends is also crucial, especially for helping with the baby, as you continue to follow the treatment protocols set by the doctor.

Therapy

If you choose psychotherapy as the primary mode of PPD treatment, you will meet with a mental health professional regularly. This mental health professional can be a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker whose responsibility is to help you work through all your challenges. At the same time, the therapist will also encourage you to develop new coping skills to help manage the symptoms in a better way.

Interpersonal and cognitive behavioral therapy are common types of psychotherapy used to treat postpartum depression. The former works by helping you understand and change your communication style in a relationship, while the latter enables you to change your destructive thinking patterns.

Medications

Medications for PPD most commonly include antidepressants. Antidepressants usually take a few weeks to provide benefits, and you may have to try out a few of them before finding the one that fits you the most. Your doctor will determine the type of medication and the suitable dosage based on trial and error and by monitoring your response to treatment. If you are breastfeeding your baby, they may prescribe a safe medication, such as brexanolone.

Remember that you are still going through a recovery period as you continue to fight off PPD. So try your best to take care of yourself and follow the tips mentioned below to adjust yourself to the new life as quickly as possible:

  • Accept any kind of help from others; even if it involves doing dishes, cleaning the house, or going for a grocery run
  • Perform light exercise regularly
  • Get out of the house whenever possible
  • Avoid blaming yourself whenever the time gets tough
  • Join a social group for new moms to find new support systems
  • Ask someone to watch your baby take a break
  • Take out some time for yourself regularly for self-care
  • Try to get as much sleep as possible
  • Talk to others who have been in the same shoes

Having a baby can significantly change your life and may force many moms to feel lost in the shuffle. Experiencing occasional feelings of sadness and stress as a part of baby blues is expected and extremely common. However, for some, these symptoms may quickly progress to become PPD and persist for months to come.

It is essential to know how to differentiate between postpartum blues and postpartum depression and know when to seek help before the condition makes your life more difficult. Do not be afraid to ask others for help and vent out to a loved one in the meantime, as it will only ease your problems.

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