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Differentiating between Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

 

Postpartum Depression pic
Postpartum Depression
Image: webmd.com

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.

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Is It Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum Depression pic
Postpartum Depression
Image: webmd.com

A McGill University Medical School graduate, Dr. Carol Lynn Childers concurrently serves as a consulting psychiatrist at Healthcare Alternative Systems and Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare in Chicago, working with individuals who have serious mental illnesses. As part of her role at Healthcare Alternative Systems, Carol Lynn Childers treats women with postpartum depression.

Although many people have heard of postpartum depression, it only affects between 10 and 20 percent of new moms. This serious problem is characterized by an inability to bond well with a baby, withdrawal from a partner, out-of-control anxiety, and overwhelming feelings of worthlessness. These symptoms often last longer than two to three weeks and may not even show up until two to three weeks after delivery.

Due to a similarity between symptoms, many new moms confuse postpartum depression with the baby blues. The baby blues is a short-term issue that results in sudden dips in mood. About 70 to 80 percent of all new moms experience the baby blues because of the extreme hormonal changes in the body following birth. Although the feelings associated with baby blues can feel like a major problem, the mood swings usually stop after one to two weeks, and new moms can continue raising their infant.