This Is What the Baby Blues Looks Like (Hint: NOT Postpartum Depression)

Baby blues is not postpartum depression.

Baby blues is not postpartum depression.

Baby blues is not postpartum depression.

You’ve heard me say this a million times before. But now I’ve said it again.

People who don’t believe in postpartum depression love to talk about the “over-medicalization of motherhood.” They’ll tell you that being a mom is tough.

It’s not an illness. You don’t need a doctor. If you’re sad and blue, that’s because you are now a parent with a lot of responsibility, and besides which our society doesn’t value or support parents enough, so no wonder you are miserable. What a red herring.

When we talk about postpartum depression, we’re NOT talking about how hard motherhood is or the fact that new mothers are sleep deprived. We are talking about an illness that arises sometime in the first 12 months after a baby is born that is so serious it impacts a mother’s ability to function on a daily basis.

She may have trouble eating. She has trouble sleeping, and I don’t mean because her baby doesn’t sleep. When her baby is sleeping she often can’t sleep, even though she’s exhausted. She can lose her ability to enjoy most if not all parts of her life. She may experience deep sadness and may often cry. She has difficulty caring for either her baby or herself because she is so troubled by how she feels. She may have bouts of uncontrollable anger or irritability. She may be thinking her family would be better off without her.

This mom needs a doctor.

When we talk about postpartum depression, we are not talking about the baby blues either. No one is suggesting that a woman go out and get treatment if, in the first couple of weeks after the baby is born, she is exhausted and cries for no reason and feels a little bewildered. That would make her normal. The majority of new moms have this experience, which, according to Dr. Ruta Nonacs, usually peaks on day four or five postpartum and goes away all on its own at about two weeks postpartum. These moms don’t need professional help. They need time.

Below is the account of a new mom who writes about her baby blues. Notice the timing of her experience: The first couple weeks after birth. Notice what happens: It goes away. Notice what she says: I feel better. I’m getting the hang of this.

This story is an example of the baby blues. This is what the baby blues looks like. This is not a story of postpartum depression.

Expecting Words: My Baby Blues

“Thankfully, my mood changed back to normal a couple weeks after the baby arrived. I realized that I had been through a rough patch that was now over. I was back to my normal self. Don’t get me wrong, I was still tired, but I appreciated my family and took great pleasure in holding my little one. I liked watching him rest, eat and sleep.”

Learn more about the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression here.