What are the Postpartum Blues?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2018
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The postpartum blues are a collection of low-level symptoms of depression and anxiety experienced in the wake of a childbirth. They are extremely common, appearing in an estimated 80% of all new mothers, and research suggests that new fathers can experience postpartum blues as well. This common experience should not be confused with postpartum depression, a serious medical condition that requires treatment. If a woman experiences severe anxiety and depression after childbirth, she should be screened for postpartum depression.

A number of factors contribute to the postpartum blues. One is the radical shift in hormones. Once the baby is born, hormones associated with pregnancy stop being produced, and women's bodies take a few weeks to adjust and go back to normal hormone production. Women are also usually exhausted after childbirth and having a baby can contribute to insomnia, fatigue, and stress. In addition, there is a lifestyle adjustment, especially with a first child, as people grow accustomed to having a baby to care for. In new fathers, the stress of a new baby can contribute to the development of mild depression for three to four months after a new birth.


Women with the postpartum blues can experience mood swings, mild depression, anxiety, and may feel like they lack control over their emotions. The postpartum blues can cause a new mother to cry or feel emotional in a variety of circumstances, not just situations associated with feeling sad. Inability to concentrate, confusion, lack of focus, difficulty making decisions, and insomnia can also be experienced. As women adjust, the symptoms should recede.

Reminding women that the postpartum blues are normal and they are not failing as new parents is an important component of support. Offering to help out around the house can also be beneficial for women under stress with a new baby. Some women find that breastfeeding helps deal with the mild depression, as breastfeeding triggers the release of hormones linked with contentment and pleasure. If a woman starts to feel overwhelmed or stressed, she can discuss the situation with a doctor to see if additional psychological screening might be beneficial.

Many men are unaware that they can develop depression after birth, and may not seek out treatment in a timely fashion. Some men also feel pressured by social expectations and may be reluctant to admit that they need emotional support after the birth of a new child.

In some women, the opposite of postpartum blues occurs. Postpartum pinks, as it is called, involves the development of a manic or hypomanic state after birth. Women may feel very energized and excited. They can also experience emotional volatility. These symptoms should also subside as the women adjust to their new babies.

People sometimes have trouble differentiating between normal postpartum blues and postpartum depression. If women or their partners feel that the intense emotional state experienced after pregnancy is a depressive episode, there are numerous treatments available.



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