Throughout pregnancy and into the postpartum period it can feel like you’re riding an emotional roller coaster! One period of time that tends to throw women for a mood loop-the-loop is the first 2-3 week postpartum. During that time many women experience significant mood swings, commonly referred to as the “baby blues”.
What are baby blues?
The baby blues is the experience of having significant mood swings that can occur in the acute postpartum period. The mood swings may include shifting between deep sadness, high anxiety, irritability, or frequent tearfulness.
I often tell clients, it’s not uncommon to cry over spilled milk if you have the baby blues, and approximately 80% of women experience them!
Baby blues is caused by the significant drop in estrogen and progesterone levels that happens following delivery. Added stressors related to caring for a newborn, especially for first time parents, and sleep deprivation can also be contributing factors to development of the baby blues. If your had an especially challenging or even traumatic birth you may be more likely of developing baby blues.
What can you do about the baby blues?
First and foremost, remember that baby blues are very common, you are still a good mom even if you experience them! The baby blues usually go away on their own without treatment as hormone levels even out. However, if you are experiencing the baby blues here are some tips to help feel better:
Prioritize sleep! Try to get at least 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep at least once during a 24 hour period.
Make sure you’re caring for your basic physical needs including eating nourishing and comforting foods. Move your body as much as you can in your physical recovery postpartum.
Ask for help with housework, laundry, cooking, and home-related responsibilities!
Connect with other parents or adults! Babies are cute and wonderful to snuggle, but they don’t make great conversationalists. Reach out to friends, especially those who are parents themselves to connect with.
Take a break if you need it. Ask your partner to take the baby or someone you trust and engage in self-care that feels good to you.
How long do the baby blues last?
Baby blues usually resolve by two to three weeks after delivery. Well baby check-up appointments are helpful touchpoints to check on how your mood is shifting and whether the baby blues are resolving.
3-day-old well baby check – baby blues may be just starting or in full force.
2-week-old well baby check – baby blues should be resolving at this point and your mood should be getting back to your pre-pregnancy baseline.
4-week-old well baby check – baby blues should be resolved at this point. If you are still having mood lability at this point it would be time to be assessed for postpartum depression or anxiety, also known as a Perinatal Mood Disorder
What's the difference between baby blues vs. postpartum depression?
By your baby’s 4 week well baby check, you should be feeling back to your normal baseline for your mood, meaning your mood should feel the way it did prior to becoming pregnant.
But, if you are 4 weeks postpartum and having persistently low (depressed) or high (anxious) mood, having intrusive thoughts, or feel like you’re in a fog, it would be time to connect with a Perinatal Mental Health Professional to be assessed for a perinatal mood disorder.
Perinatal mood disorders include postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder, postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (also referred to as birth trauma).
80% of women experience the baby blues.
Focusing on making sure your basic needs are met can help decrease the baby blues.
Baby blues resolve on their own between 2-3 weeks postpartum.
If your mood is not back to your pre-pregnancy baseline by your baby’s 4 week well baby check seek help!
How we can help!
At Noticing Growth Therapy Group our therapists are Certified Perinatal Mental Health Professionals and can assess and help you know whether you’re experiencing baby blues or a perinatal mood disorder. We specialize in supporting parental mental health postpartum and can help you find balance again and thrive in your parenting experience. Connect with us today to schedule a free consultation at 916-426-9340 or www.noticinggrowth.com
Posted by Meghann Crane-Russ, LCSW, PMH-C.
Meghann is a therapist at Noticing Growth Therapy Group. She is a Certified EMDR therapist and a has a Perinatal Mental Health Certification. She specializes in supporting parents in the perinatal period cope and recover from challenges in adjustment to parenthood and traumatic birth experiences.