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Postpartum Blues vs. Depression

Postpartum Blues vs. Depression

Many new moms have a difficult time in the first weeks with a newborn. But sometimes they aren’t sure what is normal and what might require additional, professional care. While both postpartum blues and postpartum depression can feel very intense, it is important to understand the differences between them.

POSTPARTUM BLUES

Description

• A self-limiting mood disorder that affects approximately 70% of new moms

• Usually begins during the first week after delivery

• Transient, or temporary (usually lasting two weeks or less)

• Symptoms are unrelated to events and do not affect the mother’s ability to take care of family or infant.

Signs/Symptoms

• Insomnia

• Irritability

• Fatigue

• Crying

• Anxiety

Mom’s Needs

• Support, Support, Support! – both emotionally and physically

• Rest

• Food is fuel for the body, so when mom is feeding baby, she also needs to feed herself, even if it is a small, healthy snack. Healthy foods include fatty fish, dark chocolate, granola, yogurt, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans.

• Decrease intake of sugar.

• Lower the bar a little on expectations. It isn’t perfect like you see on TV or Facebook. Give some time to adjust.

• Get out of the house when possible, even if it isn’t for long periods of time.

• Get dressed, even if staying home.

• Let natural sunlight into the home whenever possible.

• Call obstetrician if symptoms worsen; if symptoms last longer than two to two and a half weeks; or if taking care of self, family, or infant has stopped.

• If baby is safe, fed, and clean BUT is still just flat-out grumpy, walk away and get some fresh air.

POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION

Description

• Depression suffered by a mother following childbirth, typically arising from the combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, and fatigue

• Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth but may begin earlier (during pregnancy) or later (up to a year after birth).

• Lasts longer than two weeks

Signs/Symptoms

• Symptoms almost exactly like those of postpartum blues but are more pronounced and longer lasting

• Persistent feelings of doom, sadness, hopelessness

• Social withdrawal

• Aversion to newborn

• Memory fog

• Stops taking care of self, family, or infant

Mom’s Needs

• Mom’s needs are the same as with postpartum blues, but she also needs to call a medical provider ASAP and be completely honest with them about what is going on.

• The provider can rule out other possible issues that could be happening with mom.

• Referral to counselor/therapist

• Medications to help treat the depression, anxiety, or OCD

• Encourage mom to report if her symptoms worsen; she begins to lose touch with reality; she experiences hallucinations/delusions; or she has suicidal/homicidal thoughts. In any of these cases, she should go to the ER immediately. 

• Unchecked postpartum depression could transition to psychosis.

Compiled by Amy Sewall, BSN, RN and Simulation Specialist at Mississippi College School of Nursing

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