You recently gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby, and your life has been a whirlwind of early morning feedings, sleepless nights, and visits from unexpected guests bearing gifts and well wishes. You should be happy, right? But you’re not. What’s going on? You may be experiencing the baby blues or more severe postpartum depression, but how can you know for sure?
What is Postpartum Depression?
Having a baby can lead to a tidal wave of emotions – excitement, fear, joy, and many others. But something else could lurk in the shadows and crop up when least expected – depression.
While many women have short-term anxiety and sadness, often called the baby blues, these emotions go away on their own within a few weeks of delivery. “But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression.” In some cases, more severe postpartum psychosis can happen after childbirth, but knowing the differences and similarities between depression and the baby blues can help you get better.
The exact cause of postpartum depression is unknown, but possibilities include physical and emotional influencers, hormones, family dynamics, sleep problems, and physical discomfort.
Ways to Tell You May Have Postpartum Depression
It’s not uncommon for some women to experience postpartum depression after childbirth. According to some reports, between 10 and 14% of women have depression symptoms after delivery, but there’s a difference between postpartum depression and the baby blues.
The biggest differences between the two
Janet Weatherly, a certified nurse midwife at Detroit, Michigan-based Henry Ford Health, called the differences between postpartum depression and the baby blues “huge” and noted two factors that shouldn’t be ignored.
The first is the timeframe in which both happen. A new mom may experience symptoms of the baby blues for a few hours daily, but they often disappear within two weeks of delivery. But postpartum depression may hibernate and not appear until four weeks to several months following childbirth and can persist up to a year.
The second differentiator is symptoms. The baby blues is often characterized by short-term irritability, fatigue, and sadness. But a new mom with postpartum depression has more severe and long-lasting symptoms, like aggression, dangerous stress levels, and possibly feeling detached from the baby. In some cases, new moms with postpartum depression may have thoughts of self-harm or harming their baby.
It’s important to note that new fathers and close family members can also experience the baby blues and postpartum depression, but to less severity than a new mom.
How are postpartum depression and the baby blues similar?
Neither condition should be ignored, and they do share many symptoms which could indicate more significant problems lie ahead if they’re not treated, such as:
- Potentially extreme mood swings
- Long bouts of sadness
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Lack of concentration
- Eating too much or not enough
- Sleeping too little or too much
If you’ve given birth and experience depression symptoms that linger for months and affect your quality of life and your baby, talk with a healthcare professional immediately for help. Post-delivery typically includes several follow-up doctor appointments, and this is the time to be open about your feelings. Your healthcare provider may look for an underlying cause for your depression and offer treatment, which could include ketamine therapy from a licensed specialty clinic in your area.
IV ketamine therapy has been shown to be effective in reducing and preventing symptoms of postpartum depression in women in a study by Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medicine.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Getting treated for postpartum depression involves an appointment with your healthcare provider for a physical examination. Your doctor will ask about your feelings, thoughts, and mental wellness to differentiate between the baby blues and postpartum or another kind of depression. Honesty during the examination is vital, as sharing your symptoms will help develop an effective treatment plan – boosting wellness for yourself and your baby.
As part of the examination, you may be asked to fill out a depression self-evaluation form. Your healthcare provider may also recommend a blood test to see if there are thyroid problems and other tests for potential underlying conditions. Treating other medical issues could reduce your depression symptoms.
Ask about Treatment from a Specialty Clinic
If you’ve been diagnosed with postpartum depression, it’s critical to follow whatever treatment plan your healthcare provider recommends or prescribes. In some cases, you may be referred to a specialty clinic that offers intravenous ketamine therapy.