It’s normal to feel a degree of sadness and anxiety after a child is born, even if you have been excitedly waiting to become a parent — and perhaps especially if you haven’t. As much as you try to prepare for your little one, you’ll still need to make a lot of adjustments when you realize the responsibilities of parenting aren’t always as easy as you thought they would be.
But, when are your emotions a sign of something bigger? How do you know if what you are experiencing is normal “baby blues” vs. postpartum depression?
Both baby blues and postpartum depression are common and 100 percent normal after a child is born. However, each requires a different path for treatment and healing — which is why it’s so important to understand the difference between postpartum “blues” vs. depression after childbirth to get the help you need. Remember, whatever you are feeling, you are not alone.
In the article below, you can find some helpful information for determining between the different types of depression you may experience after bringing your new child home. However, the information in this article should not be used to diagnose your mental condition and should not be taken as medical advice. If you are struggling with depression after your pregnancy, please reach out to your medical professional right away. You can also reach out to the 24-hour suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 if you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your child.
“Baby Blues” vs. Postpartum Depression: How to Tell the Difference
As mentioned, it’s 100 percent normal for new mothers to experience depression after pregnancy. This is a vulnerable time for a woman; she has just gone through the trials of pregnancy and childbirth, and her body and mind need time to recover from this exhausting experience. At the same time, however, a small human demands her attention 24/7, if she has chosen to parent. This is all on top of her normal everyday responsibilities. It’s normal, even expected, for any woman to experience all kinds of emotions during this time — including sadness, anger, exhaustion, confusion and more. In fact, up to 80 percent of new mothers get the “baby blues.”
And these feelings aren’t specific only to those who raise their children — new birth mothers can also experience feelings of sadness after birth. Their emotions may even be heightened, as they are simultaneously dealing with the grief and loss of placing their child for adoption with adoptive parents.
If you are feeling these emotions after birth, they are likely just caused by the new situation you are in, your changing hormones, and the fatigue from pregnancy and childbirth. However, there is also the chance that they are symptoms of more serious postpartum depression.
So, how can you tell the difference when it comes to baby blues vs. postpartum depression?
There’s one major factor that differentiates postpartum depression from normal baby blues. If any of the below symptoms last for longer than two weeks, you should see your doctor straight away, because you may have postpartum depression:
- Agitation or irritability
- Changes in appetite
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Feeling like you are withdrawn or unconnected
- Lack of pleasure or interest in most or all activities
- Loss of concentration
- Loss of energy
- Problems doing tasks at home or work
- Significant anxiety
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Trouble sleeping
Normal postpartum “baby blues” often result in quick mood swings and the feelings stem from the normal stressors of raising a newborn. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, involves long-term feelings of sadness, worthlessness and anxiety. You may feel like you’re not doing a good job as a mom or even having trouble bonding with your baby. Perhaps your post-placement feelings in adoption are stronger than you anticipate, and you are constantly worrying whether or not you made the right choice. These feelings can interfere with your sleeping and eating schedule.
If you are unsure whether what you are feeling is baby blues vs. postpartum depression, we encourage you to reach out to your medical professional. They can evaluate your symptoms to determine what kind of treatment is necessary in your situation. Don’t worry — postpartum depression is 100 treatable, should you be diagnosed with it.
Postpartum Psychosis vs. Postpartum Depression
Sometimes, when new mothers worry about depression after pregnancy, they worry that it’s something even more extreme — postpartum psychosis. They’ve likely heard horror stories about women who suffer from postpartum psychosis and are terrified at the idea of harming themselves or their child should this condition develop.
The good news is that postpartum psychosis is extremely rare. It only affects about 1 or 2 in every 1,000 women and usually occurs within two to three days of delivery. So, it is highly unlikely that you will experience postpartum psychosis after giving birth.
Still, how do you determine between postpartum psychosis vs. postpartum depression? Remember: Both of these conditions require medical intervention. Whether you think you may have postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis, do not hesitate to contact your medical professional right away.
That said, there are a few warning signs that indicate the difference between postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. Psychosis occurs when a person loses touch with reality, and episodes are similar to those of a bipolar manic episode. A mother experiencing postpartum psychosis may:
- Hear auditory hallucinations
- Have delusional beliefs usually related to her infant (such as others trying to harm her baby)
- Be disoriented to place and time
- Have erratic and unusual behavior
- Rapidly change moods from sad to energetic
- Have suicidal thoughts
- Have violent thoughts
While postpartum psychosis is rare, it is possible. If you are experiencing any symptoms of depression during pregnancy, however extreme they may be, please contact your medical professional. They can decide what condition you may be facing — baby blues vs. postpartum depression vs. postpartum psychosis. Whatever it is, there is help out there to make your postpartum recovery period happier and safer.