Dealing With the Baby Blues
By Julianne Deveraux
The days and weeks immediately following the birth of your baby can
be an emotional roller-coaster. You can expect to experience elation,
wonder, anxiety, and -- if you are like most new moms -- at least a
touch of the blues.
Experts estimate that between 50 and 90
percent of all new mothers experience a bout of mild depression right
after the birth of their babies. So if you've found yourself feeling
weepy, sad, or irritable for no apparent reason, don't be hard on
yourself. You have lots of company.
What causes the blues
The mild depression that affects women soon after giving birth is often
referred to as "the baby blues," and while no one is sure exactly why
it happens, there are several likely theories:
- Hormones: After baby is born, the levels of estrogen and
progesterone in mom's body drop sharply, causing a deficit that can
lead to the blues. As hormone levels return to their normal,
pre-pregnancy levels, spirits tend to rise as well.
- Physical discomfort: It takes a while to recover from
childbirth, and pain from an episiotomy, hemorrhoids, or adjusting to
breast-feeding can make new moms cranky.
- Sleep deprivation/exhaustion: When the hard work of
childbirth is followed by staying up late at night to care for your
newborn, it's hard to recoup your sleep losses. It doesn't take long
for sleep deprivation to have a negative effect on mood.
- Psychological discomfort: For first-time moms, living
with a new baby is a new and daunting experience. The day-to-day
realities of caring for your infant may feel anticlimactic or
overwhelming after 9 months of being the center of attention. If you're
feeling a little disappointed by the experience, that disappointment
may be compounded by a sense of guilt or inadequacy.
Beating the blues
For most new mothers, the "baby blues" is caused by a combination of
these factors, and most find that the blues ease as their bodies return
to normal and they become more comfortable living with baby. To make
the transition easier, here are some steps you can take to relieve the
stresses that contribute to the blues:
- Cut yourself some slack: Don't worry about the housework,
the laundry, or writing thank-you notes for shower gifts. Those things
can wait. Take each day as it comes and just do the best you can.
- Ask for (and accept) help: When you feel overwhelmed or
exhausted, reach out to the people you love for support. When friends
offer to help, let them! After all, every minute that someone else
vacuums the floor or does the dishes gives you an extra minute to be
with your baby or get some much-needed rest.
- Take care of yourself: Make your own needs a priority
as much as possible. Eat well, rest as much as you can, and gradually
resume your old physical activities, even if it's just a walk around
the neighborhood every afternoon. Try to carve out time that is just
for you -- whether it's lunch with a friend or a long hot bath.
- Sleep: This may seem easier said than done, but sleep
is crucial to your emotional and physical health. Don't worry about
sleeping "normal" hours -- nap whenever your baby naps. The rest will
do you both a world of good.
If the blues linger
Baby blues typically start soon after giving birth and generally last
only a week or so (although it may feel longer!). If the blues linger
for more than a week or two, it could mean the beginning of a more
serious condition called postpartum depression (PPD). Although
relatively rare, PPD can be devastating.
available, so if you suspect you are suffering from this disorder it is
important to see your doctor and find out your treatment options. Dads
suffer from the baby blues, too -- often because they feel left out.
The key is to get Dad involved right from the start so you both can
delight in baby's ways.