Article | March 2018

Is it Baby Blues or Depression?

Understanding how each may affect new moms

It's normal to feel a jumble of emotions after your baby is born. Some mothers are elated from day one. Others waffle between anxiousness and happiness. You may feel overwhelmed and uncertain. Let's look at the "baby blues," many new moms experience. They tend to last anywhere from a few days to 2 weeks.1 Then we'll look at symptoms of postpartum depression, which is more serious and long-lasting.

Baby blues

"Baby blues" are a common experience for mothers after giving birth. The mix of hormones, exhaustion, and new responsibilities can throw you off. You might feel some of the following:

  • Unable to relate to the baby: You might struggle to relate to your baby and feel comfortable as a new mom. So many other people (nurses, doctors, family members) are involved. It feels like the baby belongs to the hospital and not to you.
  • Feelings of loss: Right after you give birth, you might feel like one stage of your life has ended. You might need to grieve the loss of your old self, or your freedom and independence.
  • Fantasy versus reality: Your new baby might be very different from the one you'd imagined while pregnant. The fantasy is over, and this can be painful.
  • Adjusting to motherhood: Being a mother is probably different than you expected. You might feel like a different person with new responsibilities.
  • Confusing emotions: You might find yourself bursting into tears during a time you'd thought would be joyful.
  • Changing hormones: Your body is awash in a mix of hormones. You're probably also exhausted and in physical pain.
  • Labor or hospital issues: If your labor or delivery didn't go as expected, you might be sad. And issues with your hospital stay can be upsetting.

Postpartum depression

If your feelings of sadness or anxiety linger, you may have postpartum depression.

Symptoms include:

  • Sluggishness, fatigue, exhaustion
  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Appetite or sleep disturbances
  • Poor concentration or confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Over concern for the baby
  • Uncontrollable crying or irritability
  • Lack of interest in the baby
  • Fear of hurting yourself or the baby
  • Extreme highs or lows
  • Lack of interest in sex
  • Lack of interest in your appearance

Reach out for help

The reality of your changed role in life can feel overwhelming. It's important to give yourself the time and space to adjust. At least one in 10 mothers get postpartum depression.2

Symptoms of postpartum depression can appear soon after birth or up to a year later. If you're experiencing any of the symptoms, contact your doctor. Women with postpartum depression can benefit from support groups, home care programs, or medication. It's not necessary or wise to struggle alone with overwhelming feelings. It's OK to ask for help.

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1Mayo Clinic, Postpartum Depression

2Illinois Department of Public Health, Facts about Postpartum Depression

National Institute of Mental Health, Postpartum Depression Facts

 

This material is provided by Cigna for informational/educational purposes only. It is not medical/clinical advice. Only a health care provider can make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment plan. For more information about your behavioral health benefits, you can call the member services or behavioral health telephone number listed on your health care ID card.