When experiencing symptoms with postpartum mood disorders, it is important to understand the severity, longevity, and prevalence of what is happening.
While there are a few different postpartum mood disorders that can affect an individual, there are two in specific that have very similar conditions yet should be treated differently. They are the Baby Blues vs PPD and postpartum depression (PPD).
Baby blues, according to webmd, are short term dips in your mood caused by all of the changes that come with a new baby.
PPD is when these feelings of sadness last longer and become more severe, usually after a couple weeks. It is important to note that a history of depression can lead to a better chance of developing PPD if someone is already experiencing baby blues.
Baby blues are very common in women and affect about 80% of new moms. PPD is less common and has been shown to impact about 10% of new parents.
While both of these conditions have overlapping symptoms, it takes a person with strong self-awareness to understand the severity and prevalence of each sign.
Compare it to the common cold where someone may start off with the sniffles but then develop congestion, a cough leading to fluid in the chest, and knowing when to seek treatment and prevent further issues being created.
This article is intended to differentiate between baby blues and PPD while giving an insight into the different symptoms each one carries and how to know when seeking treatment is absolutely necessary.
Understanding Baby Blues
Definition and prevalence
The days leading up to and after having a baby can be very stressful and anxious for most parents. While hormonal levels are changing and the landscape of your life is shifting, there can be a lot of overwhelming emotions and feelings that are present.
According to a John Hopkins Study, almost 85% of new mothers will develop baby blues.
Baby blues are expected as there is a tremendous amount of change happening in the lives of new parents. Another reason that such a high percentage of new moms develop baby blues is the short duration that these symptoms last.
Symptoms and duration
While not every new parent will experience these symptoms or the duration of them, they are the most common signs that somebody experiencing baby blues will exhibit.
- Short mood swings-this could be feeling sad one minute and happy the next, without any explanation.
- Irritability-having a short temper at things that typically wouldn’t make you upset
- Anger and frustration-finding yourself getting mad more often at little things
- Tearfulness-increased crying and sensitivity to certain things
- Fatigue-lack of energy or motivation in doing things
- Difficulty sleeping-having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, aside from being with the baby
- Overwhelming emotions-heavy feelings that are difficult to understand and process
- Anxious-overly worried or uneasy, possibly relating to the baby
- Lack of eating-a decrease in appetite even for favorite foods
Although there isn’t a specific time period set in stone with the duration of baby blues, it is generally considered to only last two weeks and develops within a few days after childbirth.
However, some new parents may experience it before having a child or several weeks after, every case is unique in its own way.
Causes and contributing factors
There can be several different causes and contributing factors that increase the likelihood of baby blues with a new parent. Some of these are:
- Changes in hormonal levels-can lead to mood swings and irritability
- Sleep deprivation-can heighten the effect of emotional instability when not getting adequate sleep
- Adjusting to parenthood-new roles and responsibilities as a parent can lead to increased stress and anxiety
- Physical and emotional fatigue-the new demands of raising a child can lead to more mood swings and emotional vulnerability
- Adjusting emotionally to life with a newborn-accepting and adjusting to the reality of raising a child can elevate overwhelming emotions
- Physical recovery from giving birth-the recovery and the demands that the body goes through can create stronger emotional sensitivity
Definition and prevalence
As mentioned before, a lot of the symptoms that happen with baby blues can happen with PPD. PPD is typically diagnosed by a medical professional and is considered a serious condition when symptoms last for over two weeks and are more persistent, severe, and numerous.
10-20% of mothers will experience PPD and around 10% of new fathers/partners will be affected by this mood disorder as well.
PPD can happen sometimes within the first year of becoming a new parent but typically emerges within the first few weeks to months.
Symptoms and duration
Symptoms of PPD can last for several months if left untreated, highlighting the importance of seeking support when things become overwhelming and unbearable.
The most common symptoms of PPD include:
- Hopelessness-feelings of being lost and desperate
- Sadness-stronger emotions and triggers with becoming overly sad
- Worthlessness-lack of self-worth and capability or raising a child
- Irritability-becoming more and more triggered by things that normally wouldn’t make you upset
- Lack of interest in activities-things that you once enjoyed now don’t seem as fun to do
- Changes in diet-lack of appetite or engaging in unhealthy eating/drinking patterns
- Sleep disturbances-prolonged difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep
- Withdrawal from social activities-isolating yourself from family and friends and difficulty in connecting with people
Risk factors and triggers
Some of the causes of PPD can be related to:
- Hormonal changes
- History of mental illness/mood disorders
- Biological factors
- Psychological factors
- Social factors
- Lack of social support
- Stressful life events
Outside of causes, there can be triggers as well that lead to PPD:
- Lack of sleep
- Adjustments to becoming a parent with new responsibilities
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
- Psychological stressors
Differentiating Baby Blues from PPD
As noted, there are several symptoms that overlap between baby blues and PPD which are important in understanding.
Having self-awareness of these symptoms is critical in being able to weigh the severity of them and when professional help should be sought.
The timing of these mood disorders are similar as they both typically occur within a couple days to a few weeks of childbirth, the postpartum period.
Both of these conditions involve emotional changes and mood swings, such as increased irritability or heavy feelings of sadness.
Sleep disturbances are a very common overlapping symptom that is predominant between PPD and baby blues, and should be taken seriously as adequate sleep is crucial for proper cognitive functioning.
Heightened emotional sensitivity can be evident in someone that is experiencing baby blues or PPD as well.
The duration and severity of these conditions differ in the sense that baby blues typically only lasts about two weeks and can resolve on its own, whereas PPD can last for several months if left untreated and carries a more severe onset of symptoms.
The type of emotions you may experience differ, whereas in baby blues they are typically general sadness or short mood swings, but in PPD there is a stronger sense of hopelessness or loss of worthiness with heavier overwhelming feelings.
Thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation can happen with PPD and when they do, professional medical help should be sought immediately, and calling a suicide hotline is critical as well.
Baby blues transitioning to PPD
This can be a critical time in being able to recognize the transition into PPD from baby blues, as having timely intervention and support will help alleviate symptoms, lessen the severity, and hopefully shorten the duration of things.
If symptoms begin to last longer than a few weeks and you feel the severity of them becoming more intense, this would be time to seek support.
Your mood worsening into stronger feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or irritability is another red flag for baby blues transitioning to PPD.
Becoming increasingly anxious and worried coupled with irrational fears and thoughts is typically indicative of the start of PPD.
Anytime thoughts of self-harm or suicide happen, this is a very serious concern for the onset of PPD and immediate help and attention is needed.
Impaired functioning can be another sign, as it could lead to difficulties in tending to the baby and a lack of interest in doing so.
Importance of accurate diagnosis
Finding professional help for an accurate diagnosis of your mood disorder is very important to understand the right approach to treatment.
This could be scheduling an appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist for example that has training in the postpartum field of mood disorders.
Having a proper treatment plan and roadmap is crucial in making sure the individual has the right support and program for getting their life back to what they are deserving of.
Seeking Help and Treatment Options
Support in my opinion is the most important step to take when feeling the overwhelming emotions of baby blues or potentially PPD.
Creating a genuine human connection with someone has incredible healing powers with processing through challenging times, overcoming difficult emotions, and letting things out into the open.
There are highly trained medical professionals such as therapists, counselors, and psychologists that are amazing options for people looking for help. Depending on your situation, medication may be needed to help regulate hormones or other chemicals in the brain that could get out of whack with mood disorders.
Whatever approach you choose to take, just remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE and there is support out there in whatever path you take. Your journey to your compelling future can be much easier with the proper help and support along the way.
You have made it this far in recognizing something may not be right in the way you feel, now take the next step in lessening the severity and shortening the duration of your symptoms by seeking support!
How Can I Help?
Finding support can be difficult as feeling comfortable being vulnerable and open with someone can be a scary thought. Creating a genuine connection with them and sharing empathy can be even harder to come across.
I completely understand and YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I am here to break the silence, raise awareness, and be that person who will navigate you on a journey to the compelling future you are deserving of.
As someone who struggled with being vulnerable, finding support, being grateful and confident, I can help you overcome these challenges.
I personally believe in the power of empathy and leading with your heart, and that is part of my mission in life.
Stop struggling with overwhelming emotions and come join a movement in gaining back the love, confidence, and gratitude for your family through a signature coaching program that I have created.
The fact you are here now reading this shows your self-awareness of what you are going through, now come take the next step with me and take 30 minutes to see how I can support you wherever you may be in your struggles.
Whether you may be experiencing baby blues and are concerned over the potential transition to PPD, or have been diagnosed with PPD, help is here. Sharing what you are going through with your loved ones and finding support groups is an amazing way of processing your emotions and being with like-minded people that care for you and may be going through the same thing.
Don’t let your symptoms worsen by doing nothing and take matters into your own hands by talking with somebody to at least temporarily dump your emotions off of your chest.
I am here for support and if you schedule a quick 30 minute connection call with me, I will listen, I am genuine, and will do everything in my power to point you in the right direction or figure out if you are a good fit for the Caproni Coaching program.
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