Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Baby Blues

Q. I am so blessed to have had a new baby a few weeks ago. Everyone keeps telling me to enjoy this time and soak up every moment, but I am so exhausted and emotional. I feel so guilty because I am just so tired and overwhelmed. Could I be suffering from postpartum depression or is it simply the baby blues?

A. What a wonderful time it is when a new life has come into the world, or at least that is what everyone says we should think. Bringing a new baby home is a joyous experience, but it is also a very stressful and overwhelming one. Did you know that 70% of all new moms experience some form of the baby blues? This tells you that you are not alone. The first few weeks after bringing baby home can be one of the most stressful events in your life. So how do you know the difference between the baby blues and a much more serious case of postpartum depression?

The baby blues is defined as a biological response to a woman's rapidly changing hormone levels after pregnancy. This can be exacerbated due to the lack of sleep, lack of alone time, and the need to healing after delivery. Some symptoms of the baby blues are:
  • tearfulness
  • irritability
  • impatience
  • restlessness
  • anxiety
  • lack of or increased appetite
These symptoms generally arrive for the new mom very soon after birth. However, they do not generally last more than 1 month. If the symptoms do last for longer, we encourage you to make an appointment with your obstetrician to be evaluated for postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is much more severe than the baby blues. You will most likely have the symptoms listed above, but you would also experience an inability to preform daily activities and have a lack of interest in your newborn. About 8-20% of women suffer from postpartum depression. If you feel like this is you, seek help immediately. There is no shame in saying that this time in your life is difficult, and learning how to manage and cope through it is very important.

If you are experiencing the baby blues, there are several things you can do to help yourself. Research shows that there are 4 keys to combating the baby blues: resting, exercise, proper nutrition, and a good support system. You have heard it before, "Rest when the baby is asleep." This is actually great advice. Tell yourself that the chores can wait. You need your rest so that you can function as a new mom. If weather permits, go for a walk with your baby or use baby yoga videos with her. Moving and exercising will help you greatly. Watch what you are eating, too. If you are not giving yourself proper nutrition, you will feel depleted and lack the fuel necessary to take care of yourself and baby. Finally, be willing to ask for help. Talk to your church group, family and friends about what you need. More than likely, they will be eager to help you out.

If you feel like you just cannot get ahead of the baby blues, seek professional help as well. You can call us here at Pathways Professional Counseling if you live in the state of AL, or find a trained clinicians in your area who can help you form an action plan to combat these feelings. You can also click here for a downloadable action plan. If you would like more information on this topic, click here for a brochure.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: askanne@abchome.org or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

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