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Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
There’s no doubt about it: having a baby is a joyous occasion. It’s so fun to meet the new little person who was growing inside you for many months, and newborn snuggles are simply the best. But postpartum emotions might not be all positive.
Even though having a baby is wonderful in many ways, the weeks and months after giving birth can also be incredibly challenging. There are new things to learn, a schedule (or lack thereof) to get used to and many postpartum emotions to deal with.
The time after childbirth can be extremely trying when it comes to your feelings. You may feel a mixture of sadness, stress, happiness and fear.
First, know this is totally normal. After you acknowledge that, it’s time to figure out how to navigate those emotions.
After giving birth, it’s normal to feel stressed and sad. In fact, there’s even a term for this — it’s called the baby blues. In fact, up to 75 percent of people experience this after giving birth.
The baby blues tend to begin a week after having a baby. Some symptoms of baby blues and postpartum emotions include:
Restlessness or insomnia
However, if your postpartum emotions feel severe or they linger for a long time, you may be dealing with postpartum depression (PPD), which affects one out of seven new parents.
Symptoms of PPD include rapid mood swings, anxiety, guilt and frequent crying. This type of depression can be mild, moderate or severe. It may show up within a week after giving birth, a few weeks postpartum or even up to a year afterward.
Wondering why a joyous occasion like the birth of a child can cause these feelings of sadness? There are actually a few reasons you may experience a depressed mood.
First, having a baby changes your life pretty drastically. You go from sleeping through the night to waking up every few hours. If it’s your first child, you can no longer just go and do whatever you want. This can be quite jarring and make you feel, well…sad.
There’s also a hormonal factor that could be at play. When you’re pregnant, your levels of estrogen and progesterone go way up. Then, within three days after delivery, those hormone levels fall back to what they were before you were pregnant.
Interestingly, a study was done on women who had a maternal iron deficiency. It was concluded that an iron deficiency postpartum was connected to feelings of sadness or depression.
In addition, if you have a history of depression (specifically, postpartum depression following a previous pregnancy), your risk of having PPD emotions again increases to 30 percent with your next child.
When it comes to this emotional upheaval, it’s understandable to want the postpartum period to be over as quickly as possible.
So, here’s some good news: Generally, if you’re dealing with the baby blues, those negative emotions subside within two weeks and usually don’t require treatment.
But what about PPD? Symptoms of postpartum depression can last for weeks or even months. It may subside within a year, though some women experience it longer.
If you’re a few weeks postpartum and are noticing symptoms of postpartum depression, it’s crucial to speak with a healthcare provider. If left untreated, postpartum depression symptoms can be extremely dangerous and upsetting. PPD can lead to suicidal thoughts, a lack of interest in your baby and even thoughts of harming your child.
If you’re experiencing an emotional postpartum period, there are things you can do to ease these negative emotions.
It’s worth noting that whether you have the baby blues or PPD, you can explore some of these treatment options. That said, women with postpartum depression may be in the most need of treatment, as PPD can last quite a while.
A healthcare provider can best assess your feelings of hopelessness and the emotional roller coaster you’re on and suggest what could help you.
If you’re noticing postpartum blues, a good place to start is with your OB/GYN. Often, postpartum women will have a few appointments with their medical provider after giving birth. This is so they can make sure you’re healing well and doing OK.
You can speak with them about how you’ve been feeling, and they can monitor you in the weeks (or even months) after delivery. They can look out for signs of postpartum depression or let you know if it’s just a short-term case of the baby blues.
Your baby’s pediatrician can also be a resource and can help you figure out if you have severe depression and need medical treatment.
One thing that can help with postpartum depression? Therapy and support groups. These things give you the opportunity to talk through your feelings and learn coping strategies.
Since a new baby can make your schedule a bit chaotic, you may want to consider online therapy, which you can do from the comfort of your own home.
Hers offers psychiatry services, individual mental health therapy and anonymous support groups.
It’s possible your healthcare provider will suggest taking an antidepressant to treat your symptoms of depression. Antidepressants work by helping to balance chemicals in your brain, which can ease symptoms of depression.
If you’re breastfeeding, let your healthcare provider know. It’s possible for some medications to transfer to your infant through breast milk. A medical professional will know which prescription medications are safe. It should also be noted that the transfer of most antidepressants through breast milk is very low.
Remember, having a baby can drastically change your life. And while these adjustments are often wonderful, the experience can also throw you for a loop.
It’s not uncommon to feel sad, overwhelmed or other types of postpartum emotions. In some cases, these emotions can be severe enough that PPD develops.
Whether you have the baby blues or PPD, it’s always a good idea to chat with a mental health professional about how you’re feeling. They’ll be able to keep an eye on you and give you treatment options that may help.
Hers offers online consultations that are convenient and easy for new moms. Get started today.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.
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