Is It Postpartum Depression or ‘Baby Blues’?

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on April 23, 2023
3 min read

Having a baby is a big change in your life. You probably expect to feel happy and proud about the new member of your family, but many moms feel moody and overwhelmed instead.

It’s normal to feel this way for a little while. After you give birth, your hormone levels drop, which impacts your mood. Your newborn is probably waking up at all hours, too, so you aren’t getting enough sleep. That alone can make you irritable.

You might simply be worried about caring for your baby, and it makes you feel a kind of stress you haven’t dealt with before.

You’re not the first mom to deal with these emotional ups and downs. Up to 80% of new mothers get what’s called the “baby blues” -- short-term dips in mood caused by all of the changes that come with a new baby.

These feelings often begin when your newborn is just 2 or 3 days old, but you’re likely to feel better by the time your baby is 1 or 2 weeks old.

If your feelings of sadness last longer than that, or become worse instead of better, you may have what’s called postpartum depression. It’s more severe and lasts longer than the baby blues, and about 10% of women get it. You’re more likely to have postpartum depression if you’ve already had bouts of depression or if it runs in your family. 

How can you tell if you have the baby blues or postpartum depression?

It could be Baby Blues if:

  • Your mood swings quickly from happy to sad. One minute, you’re proud of the job that you’re doing as a new mom. The next, you’re crying because you think you’re not up to the task.
  • You don’t feel like eating or taking care of yourself because you’re exhausted.
  • You feel irritable, overwhelmed, and anxious.

It could be postpartum depression:

  • You feel hopeless, sad, worthless, or alone all the time, and you cry often.
  • You don’t feel like you’re doing a good job as a new mom.
  • You’re not bonding with your baby.
  • You can’t eat, sleep, or take care of your baby because of your overwhelming despair.
  • You could have anxiety and panic attacks.

You should start to feel better if you do what your body needs during this stressful time.

  • Sleep as much as you can, and rest when your baby is napping.
  • Eat foods that are good for you. You’ll feel better with healthy fuel in your system.
  • Go for a walk. Exercise, fresh air, and sunshine can do wonders.
  • Accept help when people offer it.
  • Relax. Don’t worry about chores. Just focus on you and your baby.

You might not want to tell anyone you feel depressed after your baby’s birth. But treatment can help you feel like yourself again, so it’s important to seek help quickly.

If you have symptoms of postpartum depression or if the baby blues don’t ease up after 2 weeks, get in touch with your doctor right away. Don’t wait for your 6-week checkup.

Your doctor might also suggest counseling or antidepressants to treat your symptoms. They may prescribe brexanolone (Zulresso), a new synthetic version of the hormone allopregnanolone, which has been found effective in relieving symptoms of postpartum depression.