Baby blues, what it is and why it is different from postpartum depression

Baby blues and post-partum depression: the birth of a baby is an event typically associated with an ideal of happiness, satisfaction and joy for parents, so much so that it seems to many that it is impossible for a new mother not to feel fully happy

In reality, soon after the birth, the woman is faced with a radical change in her life, accompanied by great physical and psychological stress that can lead to instability, sadness and a sense of inadequacy that can prevent her from having an immediate emotional connection with her baby.

How, however, can we recognise physiological postnatal ‘melancholy’, the so-called ‘baby blues’, from a full-blown form of depression, post-partum depression? Let’s first take a look at the characteristics and differences.

Baby blues: what are they?

The baby blues or maternity blues (where ‘blues’ stands for melancholy) is a transient and reversible para-physiological condition that women experience in the week following childbirth in about 70 to 80 per cent of cases, mainly caused by hormonal changes typical of the postpartum period.

Symptoms of the baby blues

Symptoms of baby blues include very conspicuous emotional reactions on the part of the mother, such as

  • sudden, unmotivated crying
  • unstable mood;
  • feeling of inadequacy;
  • unwarranted sadness;
  • irritability.

How long they last

It is important to emphasise that these disorders have two very specific characteristics: they begin shortly after the event of childbirth (tending to occur in the next three to four days) and are transitory, i.e. they last from a few days to a maximum of one to two weeks.

In fact, baby blues are absolutely reversible, disappearing once the woman’s hormonal balance has settled down.

Don’t worry, it goes away! How?

The symptoms of ‘baby blues’ generally have a positive natural evolution, gradually improving until they disappear.

Since it is not an illness, it is not necessary to resort to specific therapies, but it can help to be ‘cuddled’ by those close to you, so that you feel supported at this delicate time.

The partner and the affections of the new mother can in this sense give her a hand, providing reassurance, listening and support, and why not, help in the daily management of the baby and the home.

Even if the little one monopolises all the attention, taking care of oneself by carving out moments of tranquillity and rest can help alleviate melancholy and lighten the heaviness of the initial difficulties.

Baby blues and postpartum depression: differences and when to seek help

The new mother in distress does not always ask for help: sometimes she may be embarrassed to talk about her state of mind, feeling ‘at fault’ for her condition.

Therefore, it is essential to pay attention to all the signs of discomfort that are perceived in the woman, in order to distinguish physiological baby blues from postpartum depression.

Contact the doctor or seek help when the malaise

  • arises about 1 month after childbirth, sometimes coinciding with the return of the menstrual cycle;
  • interferes with daily activities, including self-care and baby care;
  • it is persistent and lasts more than 2 weeks;
  • it does not seem to improve; on the contrary, it worsens.

Postpartum depression, in fact, is a real form of depression, which should be brought to the attention of the specialist as soon as possible.

If detected, it can be treated and cured, but if neglected, it can lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviour.

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