Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression


The Baby Blues

Sarah recalls crying uncontrollably for no apparent reason one day after the birth of her son almost five years ago. “I just felt completely overwhelmed and scared, because suddenly the life of this little being was all my responsibility. I had to feed him, make sure he got enough food, make sure that he didn’t suffocate at night or swallow something and choke, or even drop from my hands … I felt extremely restricted, imprisoned by his feeding schedule.” Looking back, Sarah believes she suffered from the baby blues, a short-lived but often distressing condition that affects between 50 and 75 percent of all new mothers within the week after the birth of their baby.

According to Depression after Delivery, a national Postpartum Depression support organization, baby blues are a biological response to a woman’s rapidly changing hormone levels after pregnancy. Yet sometimes the blues turn into postpartum depression. Learn the difference and where to find support if you’re struggling with a postpartum mood disorder.

Baby Blues 101

According to Depression after Delivery, baby blues is a biological response to a woman’s rapidly changing hormone levels after pregnancy. Symptoms include tearfulness, irritability, impatience, restlessness, and anxiety. Of course, the overwhelming responsibilities of a new baby, around the clock feedings, diaper changes, inconsolable crying, spitting up, and too many sleepless nights, aggravate this state.

My husband would call, and I would hear his voice, and I would just start to cry for no reason, recalls Stephanie, whose baby blues were gone within three weeks. She describes being on a high her first days home, but her mood quickly dampened as she began week two. “I’m not very good with change,” she confesses. “I felt weird, anxious, really tired, a little overwhelmed—just out of sorts.”

Dr. Silvia Olarté, senior attending at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital, explains that women experiencing the baby blues “feel life through loudspeakers.” These exhausted moms find themselves in an emotional state they just don’t recognize. Usually the women’s hormones self-adjust within 21 days, and by then routine sets in and they find themselves feeling more and more at ease with their new situation.