“Why won’t my baby stop crying?”
“When is my milk going to come in?”
“Why won't my baby latch correctly?”
“This should be the happiest time of my life, so why do I feel so sad?”
After the long, arduous journey of growing a tiny human followed by the gauntlet of bringing that tiny human into the world, many mothers are shocked to learn that the hard part is just beginning. The hormone fluctuations, coupled with recovery from even a routine delivery can be overwhelming. Add to that mix a screaming baby (who seems intent on never letting you sleep again), and just getting through your day can seem insurmountable.
Defining Postpartum or Baby Blues
Clinically, “postpartum blues” refers to a short-term condition characterized by several mild depressive symptoms such as sadness, crying, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, exhaustion, and decreased concentration, as well as mood swings that may include elation.
These baby blues are totally normal, so much so that many experts agree that more new mothers have baby blues than do not. These symptoms typically resolve spontaneously (with no treatment) within two weeks of delivery. When symptoms worsen or persist for longer than this two-week period, postpartum depression must be considered.
How is Postpartum Depression Different than Baby Blues?
Postpartum depression is less common (but still very common), occurring in less than 10% of patients. Diagnosis of postpartum depression requires an increasing severity of the symptoms, so that the symptoms cause “clinically significant distress or impairment” in functioning. Postpartum depression may lead to impaired bonding with the newborn, abnormal infant development, cognitive impairment of the child, marital discord and even suicide or infanticide (death of the child).
As noted, baby blues typically resolve with no treatment. For many women, just saying out loud how overwhelmed they are feeling is very therapeutic. Furthermore, understanding that what they are experiencing is completely normal and temporary is a huge relief. Postpartum depression treatment options include talk therapy or medications. Your doctor will be able to help you decide if medication may be right for you.
Screening for Postpartum Depression
It is very important to follow up with both your OB/GYN and your pediatrician after delivery of your baby. It is important to be honest with yourself and honest with your healthcare provider so that your needs can be fully addressed. These overwhelming feelings can be normal, but they can also be a red flag.
Screening for postpartum depression is one of the most important parts of your postpartum checkups. In my practice, I like to see my patients back in the office within two weeks of delivery and again at six weeks. Our pediatricians also play a large part in helping identify patients in need.
Hang in there, new moms. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!
Maternal Mental Health Support in Zachary
If you feel you are suffering from postpartum depression or the baby blues, you need the support of a knowledgeable and understanding physician. At Lane OB/GYN, Dr. Joshua Best provides experienced, compassionate, and comprehensive care. Please call 225-658-1303 to make an appointment.