Do I have the baby blues or is it postnatal depression?
Being mum to a newborn was hard. My body didn’t feel like my own anymore and breastfeeding was agony. I was tired, sore and emotionally drained. I just felt so sorry for myself. When I look back on this period of time I feel extremely fortunate that these feelings of low mood only lasted a few days. It’s what many people would call the baby blues. But how can you tell when the baby blues are no longer the blues, but postnatal depression? Louise Hurley explains.
Three nights after my first baby was born, the first night we brought her home was a baptism of fire into being a mum to a newborn baby. The first two nights in the hospital were pretty easy – she slept lots, the midwives helped with feeding and swaddling and I wasn’t in much pain. That third night though was completely different! It was the night when my milk came in, and hormones surged and my baby just cluster fed… All. Night. Long.
I remember looking down at my boobs the following morning. They were HUGE! And my baby wanted to feed again but just the thought of her chomping down on my already raw nipples made me want to cry… So I did.
I cried and cried and cried.
Being mum to a newborn was hard. My body didn’t feel like my own anymore and breastfeeding was agony. I was tired, sore, and emotionally drained. I just felt so sorry for myself.
When I look back on this period of time I feel extremely fortunate that these feelings of low mood only lasted a few days. It’s what many people would call the baby blues. Any stage of motherhood (but especially the newly postpartum period) is hard and you can’t be expected to love this rollercoaster of a journey 100% of the time (in fact, sometimes being a mum is a pretty shitty job… There, I’ve said it!!)
But how can you tell when the baby blues are no longer the blues, but postnatal depression?
What’s the difference between the baby blues and postnatal depression?
First of all, it’s important not to overlook ANY feelings of low mood after having a baby (regardless of whether you think it’s the baby blues or not). If you’re struggling to understand your thoughts and feelings it’s important to seek support from your partner, family or friends.
All women are different but some common signs of postnatal depression include:
- Abrupt mood swings
- Feeling constantly sad, low, or crying for no obvious reason
- Feeling constantly tired and lacking energy
- Having little or no interest in all the normal things that bring joy
- Sleeping too much or not sleeping very well at all
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Being easily annoyed, irritated or angry
- Finding it difficult to focus, concentrate or remember (people with depression often describe this as a ‘brain fog’)
- Having thoughts of harming your baby or yourself
Many of these symptoms may seem normal after having a baby, especially those related to teariness, moods, exhaustion and low energy, BUT if they last for more than two weeks, affect your ability to enjoy motherhood or affect your ability to function day to day, you should certainly seek help and support.
Where can I find help and support if I think I’ve got postnatal depression?
As well as telling someone close to you, your GP should be the first place to start. They’ll be able to rule out any other physical conditions that can contribute to the way you’re feeling.
Whether you experience postnatal depression or not, eating regular nutrient-dense meals (lots of fresh leafy greens, veggies, fruit, nuts and seeds), staying hydrated with water and doing some gentle exercise outdoors are great ways to support your mental health throughout those early days of motherhood (and for years after!). Reach out and ask family or friends for help, especially when it comes to catching up on sleep or just grabbing a few hours of rest.
Many mums feel shame, guilt and anxious about being seen as a mum with poor mental health, which can lead to covering up their feelings and struggles. However, the sooner you can address it by seeking support, the quicker you can start to feel like yourself again and start enjoying motherhood.
Louise runs Strong Mums in Gosford, NSW. She has a background in clinical and research psychology and became a mums’ fitness professional after having her first baby.