Many people envision the first week at home with their newborn as the happiest time in their lives, only to find that it is the most challenging time. Not only is this a transition to life with an infant, it is also a transition to a role change from individuals to parents. Other transitions include sleep transitions, surgical recovery, hormone changes and more. As a new mother it is normal to feel sad and even weepy in the first few days or weeks after birth. This is often referred to as the baby blues. Although it is hard to say exactly what causes the baby blues, we do know that an extreme hormone shift occurs after delivery and continues for up to 3 weeks postpartum. Hormones related to mom’s thyroid, ovaries and adrenal glands release both decreased and increased amounts that play roles in mood. Baby Blues can include powerful emotions from joy, excitement, fear and anxiety. These emotions produce symptoms that include mood swings, crying spells, difficulty sleeping (not that you are sleeping for long stretches anyway with a newborn!) sadness, feeling overwhelmed, appetite problems, irritability, reduced concentration and usually begin within the first 3 days after delivery.
So, if we know that 70-80% of new moms experience the baby blues… what do we do about it?? We support our moms! It is incredibly important that moms identify support people before birth. This way, after delivery, those individuals can give loving support, sometimes silently, to moms. Support includes helping moms maintain a balanced and healthy diet, getting outside (with baby) to enjoy some fresh air, and providing a loving ear to listen to the new mom’s concerns and frustrations. Moms can talk with someone they trust about how they are feeling (this may include her support people, or may include her Midwife, Lactation Consultant, Postpartum Doula and more). Moms can also keep a journal of thoughts and feelings, this can be therapeutic to write out when feeling extreme emotions.
Don’t expect for things to go the way you imagined it in your ‘perfect postpartum’ dreams. The first few weeks home with your newborn are hard. Between breastfeeding every 2-3 hours (or every 1hr on nights 2 & 3!) healing from the birth process and feeling responsible for a tiny human, you deserve a high five! You are doing an incredible thing, caring for precious life, a precious baby.
Remember, if you feel like the emotions after birth are too intense, or are going on longer than you feel they should, call your provider. Postpartum depression occurs in 10% of childbearing women. Signs of postpartum depression include excessive crying, difficulty bonding with your baby, withdrawing from friends and family, loss of appetite or eating more than usual, insomnia or sleeping too much, feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy, panic attacks and thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. If you have any of these, contact your health care provider as there are many resources to help moms. Postpartum depression is not your fault, it is a real medical problem that deserves good treatment. For more information about postpartum depression, as well as resources, check out Postpartum Support International
Epperson, C. (1999). Postpartum Major Depression: Detection and Treatment. American Family Physician, 59(8), 2247-2254. Retrieved from http://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0415/p2247.html
Hatton, D. (2005). Symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Breastfeeding. Journal of Human Lactation, 21, 444-449. doi:10.1177/0890334405280947
Healthy Children. (2015) Understanding Motherhood and Mood: Postpartum Depression. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/prenatal/delivery-beyond/Pages/Understanding-Motherhood-and-Mood-Baby-Blues-and-Beyond.aspx
Mayo Clinic. Postpartum depression. (2015). Retrieved August 27, 2015. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/basics/symptoms/con-20029130
Please be aware that this information provided is intended solely for general informational and educational purposes and is not intended to be substituted for professional medical advice. Always see the advice of your physician or medical provider for any questions you may have regarding your or your baby’s medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have received from this website or blog.