What Is the Difference Between Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues?

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What Is the Difference Between Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues?

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by Ashley Comegys

Having a baby is a very emotional experience. It is a time of excitement, joy, and eager anticipation, but can also be filled with feelings of overwhelm, sadness, frustration, or loneliness. All of these emotions (and many more) are normal, common experiences for moms who have recently given birth. Between sleep deprivation, fluctuating hormones, and the overwhelm of having to care for a new life, you may find yourself on an ever-evolving rollercoaster of emotions.

You may have pictured having a new baby as a time filled with smiles and snuggles, but instead find yourself crying easily and feeling sad. You may wonder, “Is it normal to cry like this after having a new baby?” And while the answer is yes, it is important to understand the differences between the symptoms of the baby blues and postpartum depression.

What Are the “Baby Blues?”

Research has shown that as many as 60-80% of moms experience what is called “the baby blues.” Typically, symptoms associated with the baby blues last between two days and two weeks after giving birth. While it may feel unsettling to cry so easily, this is not an indication of a mental health concern. The baby blues are a result of hormones fluctuating after giving birth as well as the physical exhaustion of labor and sleepless newborn nights.

Symptoms of the baby blues include:
  • Tearfulness
  • Rapid mood swings (happy one minute to crying the next)
  • Reactiveness
  • Exhaustion

With the baby blues, you still are generally happy. Though you may cry at a song playing in an ad for the latest teeth whitener, overall, you still experience and feel joy. And with the baby blues, your self-esteem doesn’t tend to be impacted. It is important to remember that if you are experiencing these symptoms within two weeks of giving birth, this is the baby blues.

Mother, baby and family dogs all lay on the bed together, resting.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression looks very similar to what you might experience with major depression. However, the difference is that symptoms of postpartum depression show up either during pregnancy or after you deliver your baby. While some of the symptoms of postpartum depression and symptoms of baby blues might seem alike, postpartum depression symptoms are more severe and they last longer than the first two weeks after giving birth.

Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
  • Depressed or low mood most of the day
  • Loss of interest in things you enjoy
  • Changes in your weight or appetite (increase or decrease)
  • Changes in your sleep
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Loss of energy or fatigue
  • Struggling with concentrating or focusing
  • Reoccurring thoughts of self-harm, death, or suicide
If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of baby blues or postpartum depression, there are three things that are important to do.

Talk with your OB-GYN about how you feel.

Let your provider know how you have been feeling and thinking. She may or may not recommend medication to help with some of the symptoms, but she will definitely want to make sure you have the help and support you need.

Share with your family, support person, or spouse how you have been feeling.

You may not know what you need from them, but having them there to be supportive of what you are going through is so important. Often women worry about telling others that they feel sad after having a baby because they believe “I’m not supposed to feel this way” and worry what others will think. But postpartum depression is common and there is nothing to feel shame about.

Reach out to an online counselor who specializes in postpartum depression.

Motherhood can be very isolating and is so challenging, and having a professional to talk to can help. Postpartum Support International is a wonderful organization that has a directory of therapists and counselors around the country who have gone through specific training to specialize in working with women who are experiencing postpartum depression. The directory can help connect you to either an in-person counselor or an online therapist in your state.

About Ashley Comegys

Ashley Comegys is a licensed clinical social worker and helps women with anxiety navigate life transitions, grief and loss. She has an online therapy practice where she specializes in working with moms who are experiencing anxiety or depression, military spouses , and women who are experiencing postpartum anxiety or depression. Ashley is licensed in the states of Louisiana, Hawaii, Colorado, and Florida, where she currently lives with her husband and two little boys.

 

 

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4 comments


  • Sheila Urena

    Thank you for being light about this. I’m currently experiencing this and I’m grateful for my medication to guide me in the right direction.I went through a hard pregnancy with birth trauma and few miscarriages depression and anxiety was a journey impossible to avoid.


  • Yzabelle Rosales

    During my post-partum with my first daughter Emely, I had a loss of appetite and thought it was odd, I wonder if that’s common with new moms. I also didn’t have a lot of time to eat with caring for the new baby so I lost a lot of weight. I’ve never heard of the baby blues but I can tell you that I was anxious those first few days and it was not great. Luckily my mom was there to talk to me (: I wish new moms all the best they are not alone!


  • Angelica

    I believe PPD is not taken as serious as it should be. It’s so hard to go through this alone without ppl understanding or judgment. I was out of work for a while and felt so judged when I returned to work.


  • Chroniclesofparent

    Such good article. A must read for all postpartum mothers. It takes a lot of effort to understand what we are going through. Awesome advices. #mentalhealthisimportant #postpartumdepressionisreal


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