Did you know that 80% of mothers experience the “baby blues” post-baby?
I know I did, or did I?
Six weeks after my daughter was born, I was still crying all day. I didn’t want to leave the house, couldn’t sleep even when she was sleeping, and had an inexplicable amount of anger towards everyone and everything. Even though I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by my loved ones, I still felt completely and utterly alone.
But why reach out to anyone? Wasn’t this just the baby blues?
Turns out I was wrong.
While most people assume the baby blues lasts up to 8 weeks postpartum, the truth is that it really should only last up to two weeks postpartum. What we call the baby blues is thought to be the result of a major hormonal crash that occurs as soon as your baby is born, the reality hitting of this major life change that has just occurred, and the severe sleep deprivation that hits us all at once. It would be normal to expect some sadness, anger, tears, and isolation as we come back from this frightful combo. And it is normal – that’s why 80% of mothers experience it. However, research shows that this frightful combo typically peaks at 2-5 days postpartum and should dissipate by 2 weeks postpartum. That’s not to say magically at 2 weeks you are no longer sleep deprived (ha – wouldn’t that be amazing), but in theory, your body is starting to adjust and your ability to cope improves.
So why was I still crying, isolating, not sleeping, and raging at 6 weeks postpartum?
Because I didn’t have the baby blues, I had perinatal depression – more commonly known as postpartum depression. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders occur in 1 out of every 7 mothers, though the diagnosis often gets missed or under-treated. My mom and my doctor knew before I did that what I was experiencing probably needed a higher level of intervention than I realized. I was too “in it” to see it for myself. My doctor didn’t need the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (though she did administer it) to see that I needed help. She took one look at me when I walked in for my 6-week postpartum follow-up and could tell this wasn’t the “baby blues.” And I am so grateful for this as she was able to refer me to the help I needed.
If you are more than 2 weeks postpartum and still experiencing what we all think of as the baby blues – check in with yourself, your support system, and your doctor.
There are myths that exist about postpartum depression – many people assume that only people with thoughts like “I want to kill my baby,” “I don’t love my baby,” “I want to harm myself” are struggling with a postpartum mental health issue. While some people do experience these thoughts, these are not the only indicators.
You don’t have to suffer – ask for help – for you and for your baby.