One thing they never tell you about is the baby blues after birth. Sure, you’ve heard of postpartum depression, but the baby blues? It’s almost a little secret of postpartum that stays hidden… until you’re going through it.

(Quick disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I’m a mom like you, sharing my experience. If you have concerns please see your doctor, midwife, or other professional. I also always strongly refer people to BetterHelp, which offers virtual counseling services with licensed professionals if seeing someone for help in person isn’t an option for you.)

You can also always reach out to Postpartum Support International‘s hotline 24 hours a day at:

Call 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD) for English or Spanish, or Text 503-894-9453

The baby blues when you aren’t prepared

With my first daughter I remember after that initial wave of hormones dropped out on me a few days after birth, the baby blues hit me full force. Though really it was more like intense baby anxiety.

Every single night when the sun went down, I would experience this intense anxiety that seemed to physically grip my body. I came to hate nights. Until magically one day about two or three weeks postpartum it just went away.

I kept waiting for that claustrophobic feeling of being trapped inside an anxious body to pop up again, but it didn’t.

Many months later I did have a bout of depression, which could have been due to postpartum hormones, or just something that came up because I was acclimating to being a new mom. Either way, I could definitely see a difference between that initial period of wild mood swings and anxiety vs. a longer state of depression I went through months later.

With my second pregnancy and birth, the emotions and anxiety postpartum were still incredibly intense, but I was prepared for it. Being able to know what I was probably in for allowed me to get through that second postpartum period with a bit more ease. If I had know just how common those mood swings and anxiety are, the first would have been a little better too.

The baby blues postpartum are so common in fact that the American Pregnancy Association says 70-80% of moms experience it or some other form of postpartum depression.

What causes the baby blues?

The baby blues generally start within 3-5 days after giving birth and can linger for a couple of weeks. Symptoms include anxiety, weepiness, irritability, and more.

This happens because of the massive hormone swing that takes place around the 3-5 day post-birth mark. If you’re not expecting it and prepared, it can be pretty jarring. I know that for me, I had intense anxiety that I barely made it through.

How long do postpartum hormones last?

According to WebMD, the baby blues usually last around 10-14 days give or take a few days. Once you get past those initial couple of weeks, your hormones should be settling down, and you will slowly be settling into your new life either as a first-time mom, or introducing the new baby into your family.

What’s the difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression?

The biggest difference is when it happens.

Like we said above, the baby blues should be clearing up within the first couple of weeks. Postpartum depression, however, will hang on much longer, and it could come up at different points after having a baby, even many months postpartum.

What should I do if I think I have postpartum depression?

Tell someone. Reach out for help, preferably from a professional who has the skills and resources to ensure you are safely cared for.

One more time, the Postpartum Support International hotline is:

Call 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD) for English or Spanish, or Text 503-894-9453

As someone who has had both the baby blues and postpartum depression, I can say that the two had a different feeling for me. The baby blues were like PMS times a million. Mood swings, crying, anxiety. I felt pretty out of control of my feelings, but it also felt very visceral.

When I compare that to my personal experience of postpartum depression, the PPD was much slower. It crept up on me over the course of time, and if effected my thoughts and thinking patterns. I didn’t just feel the physical sensations of anxiety but had anxious thoughts that got a bit obsessive.

When I had the baby blues, as soon as I googled and learned that’s probably what I was having, I was able to cope pretty well. But when I had postpartum depression, it seemed to impede my ability to just function normally.

Of course, everyone’s experience will be different, and just to add more complexity to the issue, besides baby blues after birth and postpartum depression, there is also postpartum anxiety and postpartum psychosis among other postpartum disorders.

To read more you can check out this article.

For more on my personal experience with postpartum depression, you can read this article I wrote.

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