What is the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression?

Learning to distinguish between baby blues and postpartum depression is very important, because it allows the mother and those around her to take the necessary precautions, adopt the right behaviors and, where required, seek the help of a specialist.

For women, the first days following the birth of a child are a period full of psychological and emotional, but also neuroendocrine and hormonal stress.

Most new mothers respond adequately to these changes and have a positive experience of childbirth and postpartum. Some women, however, present, in non-pathological and transitory terms, crying spells, mood swings, a sense of inadequacy and emotional lability.

This condition is called Baby Blues and occurs in the first 10-15 days after giving birth, and tends to resolve spontaneously. It occurs in approximately 70-80% of women.

The main symptoms are mild depressive-type symptoms such as:

  • tendency to cry (for no apparent reason)
  • sudden mood changes
  • poor concentration
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • insomnia (even during the baby's sleep).

Fluctuating mood and melancholy usually appear five days after giving birth, but this mood can manifest itself even earlier.

To date, the scientific community does not know what its cause is, but it is thought that the syndrome is somehow related to the hormonal changes that occur immediately after the birth of the baby.

How long does the baby blues last? Typically up to 14 days after giving birth.

The best way to stem the discomfort generated by this condition is to not withdraw into oneself, but to talk and discuss with trusted people, be they a partner, friends or relatives. Going outdoors can also be good for a new mother.

It goes without saying, then, that a mother struggling with baby blues must ask for help, even for handling the most material chores: enjoying her child and delegating (or postponing) household chores and errands is essential to being able to ward off sadness and melancholy. .

If, however, the symptoms continue beyond 10-15 days and do not resolve, it could be a case of postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression affects approximately 10-15% of women during the first year of the baby's life. It can occur immediately after giving birth, with greater frequency 4-6 months after giving birth. Compared to baby blues which is a benign condition caused by the sudden drop in estrogen and progestin levels, postpartum depression is a pathology that should not be underestimated. It is important to recognize it in time and this allows a remission of the symptoms in a short time. If neglected, it risks becoming a serious depression, which affects not only the woman but also her relationship with the child, with the partner and with the family.

The main symptoms are:

  • depressed mood
  • reduction in the ability to experience pleasure
  • weight change
  • sleep alterations
  • fatigue or lack of energy
  • isolation
  • sense of guilt
  • loss of libido
  • low self-esteem
  • reduction in concentration

Mothers with postpartum depression may also present depressive thoughts regarding the maternal role which is expressed by:

  • perception of being incapable of taking care of the child
  • fear and insecurity in managing the child
  • ambivalent or negative feelings towards the child
  • perception of isolation from the family context

In addition to the sense of sadness already mentioned in the previous paragraph, postpartum depression is accompanied by a real sense of emptiness, which is often accompanied by a loss of meaning regarding motherhood. Precisely for this reason, mothers who find themselves facing this disorder often feel ashamed of their condition, feeling a sense of guilt that is difficult to overcome.

Distinguishing baby blues from postpartum depression is not difficult: the former manifests itself in the first week after giving birth and is characterized by loud crying for no reason, sadness, irritability, anxiety, etc. and resolves completely within a maximum of 15 days after giving birth. Depression, on the other hand, begins later and has more serious symptoms that last for a long time if nothing is done.

What advice can be given to family members of women suffering from postpartum depression? What mistakes to avoid?

The figures who live with the woman have a very important role. Firstly because they can understand if the woman is unwell, especially in cases where the mother is so unwell that she is unable to ask for help. They can also be of support when the woman is ill, helping her to manage the child and the house.

The most important thing is to ask for help from a specialist, without thinking that it is dishonorable or shameful.

“The head gets sick like a knee gets sick. The difference is that you go to the orthopedic immediately and with a calm soul, while you go to the psych... you go when you can't stand it anymore and with shame and a lot of fear. Even more so if I recently became a mother.”