Maternal mental health: Baby blues vs postpartum depression, know the difference
Baby blues and postpartum depression are two distinct conditions post childbirth. Baby blues are mild and self-limiting, while depression is more severe.
A new mother goes through significant changes in her lifestyle and the postpartum journey for many is full of ups and downs. Along with enduring physical discomfort, a woman also fights a battle with her mind, as she prepared herself for an arduous yet fulfilling journey called motherhood. Post giving birth, a woman's body and mind also undergo changes due to hormonal imbalance. There are two terms that we come across while discussing maternal mental health - postpartum baby blues and pospartum depression. While these terms are used interchangeably, they are completely different from one another. (Also read: Postpartum nutrition: Foods to prevent depression in new mothers)
While baby blues is a short term condition that lasts for a week or month postpartum depression is full-blown mental health condition where feelings of hopelessness and emptiness are experienced and lasts for much longer. In case of baby blues, new mothers feel mood fluctuations, sadness, overwhelmed, due to changes in body, mind, routine and new responsibilities, in case of depression, which may even start months after delivery, a mother constantly feels hopeless, experiences changes in appetite, feels detachment from her child and the world and is unable to feel anything.
Dr Pooja Chaudhry Thukral, Associate Director, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Faridabad in an interview with HT Digital explains difference between symptoms of postpartum blues and postpartum depression.
Difference between Postpartum blues and Postpartum depression
"Postpartum blues and postpartum depression are two distinct conditions that can occur after childbirth. While they share some similarities, they differ in terms of severity, duration, and impact on a woman's emotional well-being. Here's an overview of the differences between postpartum blues and postpartum depression," says Dr Thukral.
Postpartum blues, also known as 'baby blues,' is a relatively common condition that affects many women after giving birth. It typically begins within a few days of delivery and can last for up to two weeks.
The symptoms of postpartum blues include:
Mild sadness or emotional sensitivity
Is baby blues normal?
Baby blues are considered a normal response to the hormonal and emotional adjustments that occur after childbirth.
"It is estimated that around 50-80% of new mothers experience some degree of postpartum blues. The symptoms are usually mild and self-limiting, and most women recover without requiring medical intervention," says Dr Thukral.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a more severe and long-lasting condition that occurs in some women after childbirth. Sometimes it’s called peripartum depression because it can start during pregnancy and continue after childbirth.
It is characterized by intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair that persist for more than two weeks.
The symptoms of postpartum depression may include:
Persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
Changes in appetite and weight
Sleep disturbances (insomnia or excessive sleep)
Fatigue or loss of energy
Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or self-blame
Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Is postpartum depression serious?
"Postpartum depression can interfere with a woman's ability to care for herself and her baby. If left untreated, it can have serious consequences for both the mother and the child. It is estimated that postpartum depression affects around 10-20% of new mothers," says Dr Thukral.
It's important to note that postpartum depression is different from the 'baby blues' because of the severity and persistence of symptoms. While postpartum blues usually resolve on their own, postpartum depression requires professional support and treatment.
Common reasons for experiencing postpartum blues or depression as per Dr Thukral are:
Challenges in breastfeeding
Inadequate support from family
Myths around food, water intake created my elders in the family
Staying away from work for workaholics
Pain in episiotomy for cesarean site scar
History of similar episode in previous pregnancy
Doctor shares her postpartum blues experience
"Being a gynaecologist, I experienced postpartum blues after my first delivery. It was because of the support of my parents and siblings that I was able to overcome it. Speaking about how you are feeling after delivery with your near and dear ones is the best therapy. However, if the symptoms persist then don’t shy away from proceeding with treatment. If you suspect that you or someone you know may be experiencing postpartum depression, it is crucial to seek help from a healthcare provider. Remember, only a healthcare professional can provide an accurate diagnosis and guide you toward appropriate treatment options," concludes Dr Thukral.