14 Aug When the Blues Turn Black: Who Suffers from Postpartum Depression and What You Can do about It
Marilee was happy and relieved when her son, Sean, was born. Nine months of pregnancy and a couple of years of trying to get pregnant prior to that have been a long time for her to wait. But now, she was holding little Sean in her arms, admiring his perfect little body, kissing his little forehead and cheeks and feeling like that most blessed woman on earth. However, on the second day following the birth Marilee found herself upset for no apparent reason. She found it hard to hold her tears back when a nurse said something to her about her not holding her baby in the right position. She was later extremely upset at her husband Dave for showing up 15 minutes later than he said he was going to be. At night, she could not fall asleep even when the baby was asleep as she was going over labor and birth in her mind, feeling disappointed and upset at times and feeling thankful at others. Marilee was not sure what was going on and was wondering if she had developed Postpartum Depression.
Postpartum Blues: A benign and transient condition
If you’ve just had a baby and, like Marilee, you’re feeling emotionally all over the map, you may be experiencing what has been termed Postpartum Blues or Baby Blues. Typically, this condition, which affects as many as 80% of new moms is characterized by mood fluctuations (feeling extremely happy then very low and weepy), over-sensitivity, feeling overwhelmed, being irritable, worrying and difficulty sleeping even when the baby sleeps. This condition usually starts within the first few days postpartum and will last for one day, a few days or even a couple of weeks.
The fact that so many women experience the Baby Blues implicates hormones. Indeed, “feel good” hormones such as Estrogen and Progesterone plummet significantly and rapidly in the first few days postpartum. Coupled with possible exhaustion from labor and birth, the overwhelming feelings following the birth, whether feelings of relief and elation or disappointment with how the birth went, or both, the budding love and attachment to the baby and the awe of responsibility may all play a part in this phenomenon. Thankfully, with some empathy, support and practical help, or, in short, some TLC, the Baby Blues often resolves on its own and is not a reason for concern.
Marilee and the baby were released from the hospital on the third day postpartum. Marilee was quite concerned going home, fearing that her mood swings were going to continue. She was afraid to be left alone with Sean and asked her husband to take a week off from work, which he did. On day four she was feeling a bit more hopeful and less weepy. On day five she told Dave that although she felt very tired, she was confident that she could take care of Sean by herself, with some help from Dave and Marilee’s sister who volunteered to come in for two hours every afternoon. The emotional roller coaster that she was feeling on day two and three postpartum has dissipated.
Whereas the Baby Blues is a transient, self-resolving condition, a much more serious and debilitating one is Postpartum Depression. I will discuss Postpartum Depression in my next blog.