Feeling a little blue after having a baby? That’s OK.
Here are steps you can take to cope with postpartum blues and signs to look for before it progresses to postpartum depression
Having a baby is a joyous time, but it can also come with a lot of unexplained and varied emotions and bouts of sadness.
About two to three days after childbirth, some mothers may find themselves feeling depressed, anxious or upset. They may cry for no reason, have trouble sleeping, eating or making decisions or question whether they can handle being a mother.
These feelings are often referred to as postpartum blues, and they are normal.
“Being pregnant is an emotional rollercoaster,” says LaCameo Miller, a long-time nurse at the Telfair BirthPlace at St. Joseph’s/Candler. “It has ups and downs, and even after delivery, you are going to be emotional for a while, and that’s OK. It’s OK to feel what you feel.”
And you are certainly not alone feeling that way. It’s estimated between 70 to 80 percent of women experience postpartum blues. Postpartum blues usually get better without any treatment within one to two weeks.
There are steps you can take to cope with these feelings. It starts by remembering you just delivered a baby. It takes time to learn about your baby and for your baby to learn about you.
- Keep your expectations realistic
- Rest as much as possible
- Limit visitors
- Allow others to do things for you
- Let your partner know how you are feeling, or if you are single, find and develop a good support system
When the blues last longer than a couple of weeks and start to get worse – especially if you are distancing yourself from taking care of your baby – you may have postpartum depression and should seek immediate support.
“Say it’s Christmastime and you saw a sweet Publix commercial and you’re in tears, but you’re good the rest of the day,” Miller says. “Then consider that you are in week five postpartum and everything makes you cry. You don’t want to eat, don’t want to shower and don’t want to be with your baby. That’s a really big red flag.”
Postpartum depression or anxiety is not that uncommon and is estimated to happen in one out of every 7 postpartum women – so don’t feel alone or abnormal.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to postpartum depression ranging from changes in hormone levels to a history of depression to fatigue to lifestyle factors. Postpartum depression can occur up to one year after having a baby, but it commonly is noticed about three weeks after childbirth.
And it can happen to any mom, Miller adds, whether you are younger or older, a first time mom or a mother of four.
Most moms will have a scheduled postpartum checkup with her OB/GYN about six weeks after delivery. However, you should contact your doctor sooner or when you experience any of these signs or symptoms:
- Loss of identity
- Complete loss of control
- Feeling withdrawn, isolated and lonely
- Change in appetite (either under eating or overeating)
- Exhaustion but unable to sleep
- Feelings of hopelessness, a sense of failure or guilt
- Mood swings
- Constant crying
- Constant anxiety or doubt
- Sleeping too much
- Lack of interest in yourself, baby or others
- Overly concerned about the health and safety of your baby
- The need to keep moving or pacing
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating
As a labor and delivery nurse, Miller stresses to all moms – and dads – that it’s OK to feel emotional. She encourages you to:
- Take deep breaths
- Take time for yourself
- Get enough rest
- Think things through, meditate
- Ask for help with the baby and around the house
- Try to exercise, at least walking
- Follow a healthy diet
- Talk to your support system – family and friends, especially if they’ve gone through something similar (postpartum depression, issues with breastfeeding, C-section recovery)
“We always tell them it’s OK to be emotional. At the same time, you want to make sure that they’re aware of it,” Miller says. “It takes a brave person to tell me, ‘I’m having these thoughts.’ We need to make sure that we are able to listen and get them the help they need.”
In Georgia, you can reach out to the Postpartum Support International Georgia Chapter at 470-798-0088 or visit their website, psiga.org.
There’s also a national support number you can call: 1-800-944-4PPD or visit their website: postpartum.net.