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Baby blues is a condition experienced by 75-80% of new mothers. Mood swings, feelings of sadness or numbness and loss of appetite are considered normal within the first ten days after giving birth. If baby blues continue or worsen after the first two weeks, however, the condition may be considered postpartum depression, which is medically serious and may require treatment such as therapy or medication.
While the exact cause of baby blues is unknown, experts believe that the drastic hormonal changes experienced after giving birth can lead to this condition. Production of estrogen, progesterone and endorphins drop drastically, causing the body to go into a withdrawal. Some studies suggest that thyroid dysfunction can also impact this condition. Additionally, sleep deprivation due to the infant’s sleeping patterns may exacerbate symptoms. Baby blues are more likely to become postpartum depression if you have a stressful life or marriage, experience a difficult labor or pregnancy, suffer from severe pre-menstrual syndrome, or have previous tendencies toward depression.
The symptoms of baby blues are similar to those of other forms of depression. Irritability, fatigue, restlessness, panic, crying, and feelings of sadness are all common indicators. In more serious cases, the condition can progress to postpartum depression, including symptoms of excessive worry, numbness toward life, and suicidal and homicidal thoughts. In these cases, professional help must be sought as soon as possible. A combination of medication and therapy may be needed to correctly manage the condition.
For those suffering from mild to moderate baby blues, experts have many suggestions to help eliminate the problem. Calling on family members to help with household chores or child care will give a new mother precious time to herself. Many mothers suffer from the “supermom” syndrome, a feeling that they must do everything perfectly, and without getting tired.
It is important that a mother get adequate time to rest and take care of herself. Having a second parent at home, or a baby nurse can help mothers bond with their baby and still get rest. Breastfeeding can help raise certain hormone levels that may assist with quicker recovery from the blues.
Another way to relieve symptoms is light exercise, such as walking, which stimulates endorphins and can reduce mood swings. Be sure to check with your doctor about what exercises are approved and how quickly you can begin exercising after you give birth. Some experts recommend keeping a journal to record frustrations and fears. If you are experiencing difficulty coping on your own, talking to a friend, spouse, a new parent group or mom's group, or a counselor is recommended.
Time is a major factor in determining the severity of depression, and experts consider the two or three weeks after birth an adjustment period that usually does include at least some symptoms of baby blues. Statistics suggest that baby blues are a natural part of the birth process and generally subside on their own. If symptoms do continue past this point, professional help of a doctor or counselor may be able to better identify the problems and help deal with the condition.