Consulting psychiatrist Carol Lynn Childers works for Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that provides services for individuals with serious mental illnesses. Dr. Carol Lynn Childers also serves as a consulting psychiatrist for the Jennifer Mudd Houghtaling Postpartum Depression Foundation.
The “baby blues” is a colloquial expression used to describe the common experience parents have following the elation of the birth of a child. As the lack of sleep and inability to regularly engage with friends, family, and hobbies begin to catch up with new parents, many begin experiencing exhaustion and mood swings. In 10 to 15 percent of new mothers, this can lead to a more significant condition called postpartum depression (PPD).
A number of indicators suggest PPD, but the most basic symptoms are hopelessness and chronic sadness. Tiredness and frustration are part of the newborn experience for parents, but depression is not.
A general timeline can help differentiate between baby blues and PPD. Baby blues typically lasts about two weeks, while PPD generally does not end without intervention and intensifies as the days go by.
In addition to sadness, guilt is a common symptom of PPD. Again, questioning the decision to become a parent is common for women, but extended crying spells resulting from excessive doubts about motherhood are likely an early symptom of PPD.
Other common symptoms of PPD include difficulty making decisions, irregular sleep patterns, and a lack of interest in things that used to bring joy. Parents who feel their issues extend beyond the baby blues should discuss their concerns with a physician.