Winter Babies and Postpartum Depression
When do the 'baby blues' become postpartum depression?
As many as three out of every four women will experience the short-term mood
swings known as the "baby blues" after their baby is born. But nearly
12% experience more serious and longer-lasting postpartum depression.
How can you tell the difference between the normal mood changes that will
abate, and those that could mean depression and a need for treatment? How can
you manage postpartum emotions -- whether it's the baby blues or true
depression -- in the colder, darker, and more isolated winter months?
Got the Baby Blues?
"Baby blues are very normal and very common," says Catherine Monk,
PhD, Herbert Irving Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology in the
departments of psychiatry and obstetrics at Columbia University College of
Physicians and Surgeons. "Having a baby, even if it's a second or third
baby, is a sea change in your life. That, combined with the fluctuating
hormones as your body goes from being pregnant to not pregnant, can lead to
major mood swings."
There are two big differences between baby blues and true postpartum
depression, experts say:
- How long your depressed feelings last
- How intense the feelings are
The baby blues usually begin a few days after delivery and last about 10
days to two weeks. But don't immediately assume that if you're still feeling
weepy on day 15, it must be postpartum depression, cautions Monk: "It's not
that exact a science."
The baby blues also feel different than postpartum depression. "They're
not just about being sad. Baby blues seem to be about being full of
feeling," explains Nada Stotland, MD, MPH, professor of psychiatry and
obstetrics and gynecology at Rush Medical College in Chicago. "You may cry
because you're feeling sad, but you may also just look at the baby and cry
because you're full of emotion."
Could It Be Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression lasts longer, and it's more severe. Stotland describes
it as "feeling dragged down all day long, with a gray lens in front of
everything you do." The symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Sleep disruption. Everyone tells you to "sleep when the baby
sleeps" -- but when you try to fall asleep, and know you need to, you just
- Appetite changes -- either loss of appetite and losing more postpartum
weight than you should, or overeating.
- Having no interest in seeing people.
- Inability to enjoy the things you used to enjoy.
- Inability to concentrate.
- Intense self-criticism and self-blame, thinking that you're a bad mother
and you can't do anything right.
- Inability to bond with your baby, which can cause intense feelings of shame
If you have several of these symptoms and they've persisted for some time,
call your doctor to ask about being screened for postpartum depression. And if
you've had any thoughts of harming the baby or yourself, make that call right