by Jen Berryman, BSN, RN, CLEC; Margot Strauhull, LCSW, RPYT; Leah Castaneda, CPD, CEIM
Baby blues is experienced by up to 80 percent of birthing people. Symptoms typically peak about 1 week after birth and disappear on their own by 2-3 weeks postpartum. The baby blues is primarily a result of the dramatic drop in hormones (estrogen and progesterone) following birth, combined with the sleep deprivation that comes along with a newborn. Symptoms of the baby blues may include: feeling let down, crying for no apparent reason, impatience, irritability, restlessness, anxiety.
While many birthing people experience the baby blues, 15 to 20 percent experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety that may appear anytime in the year after birth. People can also experience these symptoms at any time during pregnancy, following a miscarriage, or termination of pregnancy.
Experiencing these symptoms and feelings can make parents feel like they are failing, or as if they are flawed or deficient in some way. Feelings of embarrassment, failure, uncertainty, and fear of being labeled mentally ill or a horrible parent keep many people from seeking help. They continue to suffer alone, and may wait months or years before seeking help.
It is important to realize that these disorders are not self induced. A person cannot “pull themselves together” any more than they could if they had the flu, diabetes, or any other physical illness. There are effective and well-researched treatment options to help recover and prevent worsening of these symptoms. People experiencing these symptoms are not alone and will get better with treatment and support.
Non-birthing parents can experience postpartum depression, too. Up to 10 percent of all parenting partners experience postpartum depression with rates of occurrence as high as 50 percent if depression is present in the mother.
Below is a list of some of the common symptoms a person might experience who may be struggling with perinatal mood or anxiety. Any person experiencing any of these symptoms should contact their provider and have a complete medical evaluation, including thyroid screening.
- Feeling sad, tearful or having thoughts of suicide
- Intense worry, fear or panic
- Sleeping all the time or not being able to sleep
- Irritability, surges of anger
- Changes in appetite, eating less or more than normal
- Increased fatigue
- Hot/cold flashes, chest pain or dizziness
- Feels of dread, overwhelm or despair
- Intrusive thoughts or worries
- Feels of guilt, shame or inadequacy
- Lack of feelings toward your baby or feeling constantly worried about your baby’s well being
Postpartum psychosis is the most severe perinatal mood disorder and is the rarest postpartum reaction. It occurs in about 1 in 1000 birthing people, usually within the first three weeks after the birth. The person may experience a break with reality. Symptoms may come and go and may include: agitation, hallucinations, severe insomnia, bizarre feelings and behavior, delusions and/or paranoia.
Postpartum psychosis is a serious emergency and requires immediate medical help.
Postpartum Support International
Dedicated to helping men and women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. They offer phone support and the website has a wealth of information for birthing people and their partners.
The Postpartum Stress Center
A treatment and professional training center for prenatal and postpartum depression and anxiety offering phone support and guidance on finding local professional help.