Up to 80% of women experience the “baby blues” which is considered a normal reaction following birth. The baby blues can include feeling weepy, overwhelmed, feeling emotionally up and down, forgetful and stressed. I distinctly remember crying into my Cheerios three days post birth and thinking “hmm, so this is what the baby blues feel like.” While this experience is definitely not fun, it is relatively short-lived and should resolve within two- three weeks. The baby blues may be triggered by the hormonal changes brought on by birth, recovering from birth, and the realization that your life has changed in a major way! It is very natural to feel overwhelmed during a huge life transition, even if it is considered a happy event.
While the baby blues are considered common for most women, there can be more significant mood changes for others. These changes can include depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and in very rare cases, psychosis. While we typically hear of these mood changes happening after birth, in the postpartum period, it is also normal to begin experiencing some of these changes even during pregnancy. How do you determine if your experience is the typical baby blues or something more significant?
Two factors can help determine whether your experience is baby blues or something more significant: duration and severity. If your mood changes began in pregnancy, or if they last longer than 2-3 weeks post-birth, there may be something more going on. Severity of symptoms is also very important to consider. If your mood symptoms are interfering with your ability to function, bond with your child and you have limited relief from these symptoms, this may also be an indication that it is not just baby blues. If you are experiencing significant mood symptoms, know that this is quite common and there are treatment options. Please let a healthcare provider know that you are experiencing these symptoms, including your OB, midwife, family physician, public health nurse or psychologist. It’s also important to know that these symptoms can appear up to 12 months from birth, so even if you feel okay at your 6 week follow-up, these symptoms can still develop.
While having a baby can be a joy, this life transition can create a multitude of feelings. Whether this is your first baby or your fourth, the addition of a child is a big transition. While you are tasked with the responsibility of taking care of another human being, you also need to be taken care of. If you find that you are struggling, please reach out.