A mother holds her baby closely as she sits on a couch.
If you’re feeling depressed or anxious after the birth of your child, you should talk to your obstetrician. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

As an occasional reader of Facebook posts and blogs from new moms, I’ve noticed one of the recent topics coming up a lot lately involves “baby blues” and postpartum mood disorders, including depression and anxiety.

I wanted to let you know about these normal things ahead of time so you can be prepared.

This topic applies to a sizable audience, too, considering about 70 to 80 percent of all new moms experience the baby blues.

What is it?

  • Tearfulness or crying, sometimes without an apparent reason
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Mood instability
  • Lack of concentration

These are normal symptoms of baby blues. We don’t know for sure what causes it, but we do know it definitely has something to do with the drastic change in hormones after a baby is born.

Baby blues

The baby blues usually starts a few days after birth and last a few weeks. It’s typically gone by about the third week after birth.

What can you do for it?

  • Well in advance of the delivery date, talk about the symptoms with your partner and family. This helps everyone understand what’s normal.
  • Let others help—and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Rest when you can, even if you can’t sleep when the baby sleeps.
  • Take time for yourself.
  • Journal your feelings or talk with a friend.
  • Get some fresh air and take a walk outside.
  • Use relaxation breaths or listen to a relaxation clip.
  • Plan time with your partner.

Postpartum mood disorders (you’ll often hear them referred to as PPD) can start anytime, right up to the baby’s first birthday and beyond.

We also know that women who have a history of depression are at greater risk of depression in the pregnancy and postpartum.

Be sure to share your history with your provider.


So what other differences are there?

Besides the baby blues symptoms, postpartum depression can also include:

  • Inability to sleep, even when the baby is sleeping. I once had a new mama call me and tell me she hadn’t slept in three days. “How much have you really slept?” I asked her, figuring she meant it figuratively. She told me she hadn’t slept—she was at the baby’s bedside watching him sleep, and she felt she had to do that. I encouraged her to talk to her OB provider. (This was beyond normal anxiety, and she needed some help with this.)
  • Feeling as though you can’t bond with your baby
  • Lack of interest in things you once liked
  • Feeling helpless
  • Feelings of guilt, such as feeling as if you aren’t a good mom

One author put it this way: Postpartum has stronger emotions, or lack of emotions, and it lasts longer than baby blues.

Postpartum psychosis, meanwhile, which is very rare, is typically at work in some of the particularly unsettling stories that make the news.

If you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, or you’re having obsessive thoughts or hallucinations, you need to seek care immediately by going to the nearest emergency department.

This is also true if you can’t eat or sleep at all, or you’re feeling paranoid—you need to head to the nearest ER.

Is there treatment for postpartum mood disorders? Yes! It can involve one or more things, including hormone therapy, antidepressants, therapy, counseling, or placental encapsulation.

Look for a postpartum mood disorder support group in your area.

Nancy Roberts, RN, CCE, from Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital, has helped with a great option for women of West Michigan.