The Baby Blues. After 9 long months, you’ve just welcomed a beautiful baby into your life. You grew an entire human inside of you and then endured labour so they could be born. You are incredible.
You are also sore and tired, sometimes bed bound and unable to move. But your work isn’t over; it’s just beginning. You have more to do as you ween and nurture your newest arrival. Your high hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone during your pregnancy have dropped dramatically post-birth, engorging your breasts to allow your milk to come in and exhausting you all over again. You’re also managing sleepless nights while you heal and navigate your new role as a parent.
All of this naturally takes its toll. The first few weeks are the hardest, with 60-80% of women suffering from the ‘baby blues’ and 1 in every 10 women suffering from postnatal depression within a year of giving birth. It also affects fathers and partners, proving that the birth of a child does more than affect your body.
It’s important to understand the difference between baby blues and postnatal depression. Baby blues tend to start a few days after giving birth and last for a few weeks before going away on their own, whilst postnatal depression lasts a lot longer and has more severe symptoms.
The baby blues
Those suffering from the baby blues commonly:
• Feel worried and irritable about anything that concerns the baby
• Feel nervous about being a ‘good’ mother (or father or partner)
• Cry a lot, more notably over things that wouldn’t normally bother them
• Struggle sleeping and making decisions
• Feel trapped and overwhelmed
• Suffer from intrusive thoughts about parental abilities
Tips on how to cope with the blues
The first thing is to remember that what you’re feeling is common and completely understandable. Your entire life has just changed, either again or for the first time. Set realistic expectations and be kind to yourself. You cannot do everything all at once. You’re recovering from giving birth and your only priorities should be for you and your baby’s wellbeing.
• Set healthy boundaries around family and friends who want to meet your new arrival. Think about giving them a time slot and gently ask them to stick to it
• Take short breaks from your baby and ensure you bathe, eat and relax when you can
• Ask for help and delegate tasks when you need to – don’t be afraid to let others know how they can support you
• Be open about your thoughts and feelings and what you need from those around you
• Surround yourself with the people who make you feel good
• Trust your instincts – you have an innate understanding of what you’re doing!
• Let your best be enough. Don’t compare yourself to others or feel like you could be doing more. If you’re feeling that way, you’re already doing more than you should!
• Give yourself time to adjust and let go of any expectations you have of yourself
• Get out of the house when you can for faster recovery, both physically and mentally
• Eat healthily every 3-4 hours for both your mood and your body
Postnatal depression often has similar symptoms to the baby blues; however, the feelings are usually more intense and last a lot longer. You may also suffer from the following:
• A persistent low mood and feelings of sadness
• Loss of enjoyment or interest in the wider world
• A lack of energy and constant state of tiredness
• Difficulty bonding with your baby – and in more extreme cases – thoughts about hurting them
Ways to seek support
You should know that you’re not alone in feeling this way, and there is a range of help and support available to help you through this difficult time. Postnatal depression can be a lonely and scary place, and it’s normal to feel like there’s nothing you can do about it. However, several treatments have been designed to ease the symptoms you’re suffering. You don’t have to endure postnatal depression in silence. It’s not your fault you’re feeling this way and it does not mean you’re a bad parent or you’re going mad. Seeking help will empower you, and it won’t end with your baby being taken away from you (which is a common fear); babies are only taken into care in exceptional circumstances.
Consider the following treatment options:
• Talk to those around you and let them help you as much as possible. Making the time for self-care activities, such as resting, exercising and eating well will improve your mood and ease the symptoms associated with a low mood.
• Your GP can recommend a self-help course or even a course of therapy such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to help you overcome your depressive thoughts.
• Anti-depressants have come a long way in recent years. There is no shame in taking them for some extra support while you manage everything else. Your doctor can prescribe medication that you can take while breastfeeding, leaving you to concentrate on your wellbeing.
Suffering from baby blues or postnatal depression can be all consuming, which is why the most important thing you can do is let yourself enjoy your newborn. Parenthood is challenging and exhausting, but it’s also rewarding and remarkable. The time you spend with your baby is precious and unique, so remember to smell their hair, kiss their little toes and fingers, and bask in the incredible journey you’re taking together. You are a family, and this won’t be the only trial you overcome together.
For further information and support on how to cope with a new baby, visit our help page here.
PPDIL.org. What are the baby blues? Source article: https://www.ppdil.org/2017/12/what-are-the-baby-blues/
NHS. Overview of Postnatal Depression. Source link: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-natal-depression/