What are baby blues?
Postpartum is a grossly misunderstood topic, often reduced to either of the two extremes- the euphoria of childbirth and the depression that follows. We find the baby blues meaning ( postnatal blues) in the grey area between the two. Also called the postpartum blues, these are feelings of unhappiness that many women encounter in the early days after giving birth. This sombre mood cultivates on day 2 or 3 postpartum and can last for a few weeks. These baby blues are precursory signs of what we commonly mistake to be postpartum depression.
New mothers and birth givers experience sadness, moodiness and anxiety postpartum. They can often be seen having crying spells with a loss of appetite. It is also noted that there is trouble sleeping, high levels of irritability and cognitive dysfunction immediately after giving birth.
What causes postpartum changes in mood and behavior?
The mind goes to the apparent predicament, the process of childbirth itself as a reason for the sudden and drastic changes in mood and behavior; these can be further broken into bio-psycho-social changes that take place;
Changes in hormone levels. Estrogen and progesterone drop precipitously after childbirth, affecting the brain's hormone-regulated and dependent mood pathways.
A difficult delivery. Physically debilitating labor followed by an exhausting homecoming, compounded by the frequent demands of newborn care — can make any new mom feel overpowered and exhausted.
- Sudden Shock and guilt. New mothers struggle with mixed emotions about their new role as a parent, often after the first sight of the baby.
- Difficulties in breastfeeding. Sore nipples, aching engorgement, latching issues, and more can be exceptionally demanding first few weeks postpartum.
- Perceived Stress in your relationship. Stress-related changes in romantic/ work/personal life.
With such an overwhelming list of challenges to encounter, it's no wonder that a new mother or birth giver lives with a vulnerability to developing baby blues.
Baby Blues vs Postpartum Depression
About 80 per cent of postpartum mothers have baby blues, which refer to a short period filled with bouts of sadness, anxiety, Stress, and mood swings post-delivery. The baby blues typically strike within a few days of giving birth. Still, if had there been an especially tough delivery, one may notice them even sooner. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, is a possibility if the baby blues stretch longer than two weeks or a sense of high anxiety or depression sets in. PPD is a severe mood disorder which requires treatment, often medication, therapy or a combination of the two.
While Postpartum Depression might look like an extreme version of postpartum blues, they cannot be merely correlated based on their shared underlying etiology. What one person considers severe might be more or less so for another person, so this concept of Baby Blues is more subjective than the clinical description of PPD as per the DSM 5. Generally, the baby blues will have a lower impact on a new mother's daily functioning compared to the distress caused by PPD.
5 Tips for Managing Symptoms of Baby Blues
There are a few things you can do to manage the symptoms and find baby blues remedies.
- Know what to expect: While you're pregnant, talk to people you know who have had children about their experiences after birth. Ask your OB/GYN doctor questions. Make a list of things that calm you down or make you happy, such as a hot bath or going for a walk. When you're feeling overwhelmed or unhappy, you can refer to that list.
- Schedule rest: You can't stop your baby from waking up at all hours of the night, but you can limit the amount of caffeine you ingest, switch off your electronic devices an hour before you go to bed, and let your partner use the bottle-feeding method so you can sleep through the night.
- Avoid Isolation: Having a new baby can feel isolating. Meet up with friends and family. Talk to them about what you are feeling and actively avoid times when you think you must be better off alone, by yourself.
- Connect with other new moms. The shared experience can help cultivate a healthy outlet for emotions. You may want to consider seeking out other women who are dealing with the same transition into motherhood. It can be very reassuring to hear that other mothers share your insecurities and feelings and can work as a great option for baby blues help.
- Bond with your spouse or partner. The stress of caretaking responsibilities can leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
When to seek help?
Ask for help: Tell your partner, family, or friends what they can do for you. At any given moment, if you feel overpowered by emotions that do not seem to go away, reach out to a mental health professional and get the help you need.
The postpartum phase is challenging, and it's essential to take care of yourself as best you can. Finding things that make you feel better during this transition might help you get back to "normal" (or, at least, find your new normal) a little faster.