Supporting New Parents

Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression: How to Tell the Difference

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

The event of becoming a mother should be nothing but a joyous one, but the excitement of having a new baby can be overshadowed by feelings of sadness and mood swings. Many new moms experience these feelings shortly after giving birth, which are often referred to as the ‘baby blues.’

“Baby blues tend to be seen around three to five days after the baby is born and the mom will often experience symptoms for about two weeks,” says Janet Weatherly, a certified nurse midwife at Henry Ford Health System. “Within the first couple weeks after childbirth, the estrogen and hormone change the mother experiences become a factor in the start of post-baby blues symptoms.”

Some common symptoms are crying, anxiety, and feeling restless or overwhelmed; these are often felt by new mothers due to the added stress and responsibility that a newborn can bring. These symptoms are known as the baby blues and are likely to occur within four to five days after the birth of the baby.

“There is a huge difference between what is called the baby blues and postpartum depression (PPD),” says Weatherly. “The timeframe in which symptoms occur is often the distinguishing factor because baby blues should subside after a few weeks while PPD can last up until a year or longer.”

As a mother caring for a new infant and potentially older children in addition to managing her normal responsibilities, feelings of depression are especially problematic. Postpartum depression occurs in 10-15 percent of women in the six months following childbirth with risk factors often mirroring those typically found with major depression.

Here are some ways to tell the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression:

  • Timeline. The baby blues occur for a few hours each day and should disappear within fourteen days after delivery. Postpartum depression on the other hand can occur within four weeks to several months after childbirth, and can last up to a year.
  • Symptoms. Some of the symptoms of baby blues are irritability, fatigue, and sadness. PPD symptoms are often more severe and include aggression, extreme stress, and potentially feelings of detachment from the baby.

It is important to open a dialogue with your provider about these new emotions, challenges and changes that you are experiencing. Whether what you are experiencing is the baby blues or postpartum depression, it is imperative to ask for help to discover what treatment may be best.

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To make an appointment with a Henry Ford doctor or midwife, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

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Janet Weatherly, C.N.M., sees patients for midwifery services and obstetrics at Henry Ford Health Center – Fraser and Henry Ford Macomb Hospital.