While for a few brief weeks the baby blues and postpartum depression (herein shortened to PPD) may feel the same, they are quite different. Regardless of whether you have a history of depression or not, I think it is imperative that new parents know the difference. Watching for signs and getting help when you need it can help prevent a lot of heartache and in some rare cases, tragedy.
So What is This Baby Blues Thing?
While not entirely understood, baby blues occurs mainly because of the drastic hormonal changes that a woman undergoes directly after having their baby. Mild depression, weepiness, exhaustion and anxiety are very common to new mothers. Your placenta, a very hormonal organ that your body grew just to nourish your baby, is gone taking with it all of the glorious hormones it produced. If you want to get a little more scientific, your placenta produces progesterone, which blocks the production of prolactin (which is the milk producing hormone). Once you deliver your placenta, your progesterone levels plummet which allows the prolactin levels to surge. When you combine this with sleep deprivation and the drop of adrenaline levels after the birth you get the baby blues.
Most woman report feeling their worst around 4 or 5 days after their baby is born. This could be delayed a little if you had a C-section because your milk tends to come in a little slower. The baby blues tends to last anywhere from 3 to 15 days (on average).
Common Baby Blues Symptoms
- Emotional highs and lows
- Irritability, nervousness and anxiety
- Lack of confidence in your new role
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mild depression and/or feeling weepy
Treatment for Baby Blues
It’s important to realise that the baby blues is not an illness and therefore usually requires no treatment. What is required, is understanding. Visits with the new parents should be short. Mom (or dad for that matter) should not be expected to serve guests or have a clean bathroom. If you are dressed and showered you are doing very well for yourself. Tell people to help out around the house and/or offer to toss in a load of laundry. Ask guests to bring the happy parents some real food to eat and to freeze for later. Nap when you can and when you want to (nothing worse than being told you should sleep when you aren’t tired). Rest assured that you are doing a great job and that your feelings are completely normal.
When Are the Baby Blues Not Baby Blues Anymore?
For some moms the baby blues turns into something more profound. PPD is a serious condition and unlike the baby blues will not go away on its own. It’s extremely important to be educated and know what to look for. Approximately 10-15% of new mothers will experience PPD. If you have a history of depression or have experienced PPD before your chances go up significantly. It’s important to note that PPD can happen anytime during the first year of your child’s life. For me it started to sneak up on me when my son was about seven months old. For some moms it will feel like a continuation of the baby blues.
Common Symptoms of PPD
- Lack of pleasure from life and/or your baby
- Negative feelings towards your baby
- Guilt, worthlessness and ready to take blame for everything
- Exhaustion and a general lack of motivation
- Feeling rejected
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
- Emotional eating or lack of appetite
- Trapped in your life
If you feel any of these symptoms it is important that you talk to your family, loved ones and more importantly your health care provider. PPD should not be ignored. It will not go away on its own. And it’s okay to ask for help.
More Serious Symptoms of PPD
- Feelings and thoughts about death and suicide
- Worrying about hurting your baby
- Hysteria and/or mania
It is imperative that you seek help immediately if you feel any of the above symptoms. Don’t wait, get help now. Until you are able to talk to someone it is vital that you are not left alone with your child. There is no shame in these feelings at all and asking for help is not a sign of weakness. In fact it takes great strength to admit what you’re feeling and to ask for help to cope with it.
Natural Treatments for PPD
If you are like me, you tend to shy away from modern medicine and drugs. I truly believe that many illness and chronic conditions can be treated through lifestyle and dietary changes, and the use of gentle herbs. In my opinion mild to moderate cases of PPD can fall into this category. While I believe this, serious cases of PPD will require medical intervention. I love herbs. They are amazing healers and I wouldn’t be who I am today without them, but they cannot help with everything. Modern medicine and its healers have their place as well.
If you have some of the more common symptoms of depression (and NONE of the serious ones) you can consider natural treatments. Call your herbalist, but also call your doctor. As a herbal medicine practitioner I feel much more comfortable working WITH a client’s doctor. The results are better for everyone involved. If you have the more serious symptoms, don’t call your herbalist first. Once you have things managed and under control, then give me a call.
Keep your eye balls peeled for Part 3 where I talk about the beast known as sleep!
Peace and herbal love.