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Our National Helpline on 1300 24 23 22 is now live between 9.00am-4.30pm – Monday to Friday.

Baby Blues: What Is It and How To Cope?

A catch-all phrase for the stress and frustration that new parents are likely to experience early post-pregnancy. Here's what you need to know about it.

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Table of Contents

Many new mothers will experience a mild depression during this life changing stage after giving birth. In fact, it’s such a common occurrence that it has it’s own name, the baby blues.

How do the baby blues differ from postpartum depression? 

Having a baby can be an emotional time, when your hormones are going through a dramatic change and may affect up to 80% of women. The baby blues is commonly related to hormonal changes following the birth of your baby as well as being related to adjustment and general stress following pregnancy and birth.

Postpartum depression (PPD) may not only affect the mother but also her relationship with her baby, her child’s development and other relationships with her partner and other members of the family. PPD is rarer amongst mothers, but carries more severe psychological effects, the World Health Organisation (WHO) approximates that 19.8% of women develop some form of PPD after giving birth.

Some may think Baby blues and postpartum depression is the same but the latter has lasting effects which are generally longer, and will usually relate to more complex issues or pre-existing mental disorders.

Key Highlight

Baby blues, postpartum depression and perinatal psychosis are all varying stages of post-pregnancy depression with a scaled set of symptoms, complex issues and mental disorders.

Baby blues symptoms

Symptoms can differ from person to person experiencing baby blues. Generally, baby blues may affect your general mood and you may feel sad or at an emotional low when you should be feeling elated and happy with the arrival of your new baby.

Baby blues usually resolves itself within the first two weeks of adjusting to your new baby’s arrival, however this is a personal and individual experience and sometimes can extend itself depending on your physical, emotional and personal situation.

You may be also impacted by the change in your sleep patterns following birth and more awake at night.

Some may also go through periods of being teary, anxious and unsure why they are feeling this way. Mood swings can fluctuate from high to low and are due to the levels of oestrogen and progesterone needed during pregnancy suddenly dropping, causing shifts in mood. You might find yourself feeling sad, angry, irritable, or discouraged.

Feelings or being stressed can become quite overwhelming and concerns on how you will cope in caring for your new baby, at times may feel overwhelming.

Other symptoms include, sleep deprivation, feeling exhausted and lack of appetite.

Symptoms of postpartum depression

Postpartum depression has a longer, more sustained affect than baby blues. Mothers can experience more persistent feelings of being overwhelmed for over two weeks following birth of baby.

Symptoms can include, feelings of hopelessness, a sense of an inability to cope in this new parenting role, feeling overwhelmed and long periods of being teary, feeling anxious and also panic attacks.

Postpartum depression (PPD) can also lead to more complex mental health challenges more synonymous with major depression, with the parent not bonding with baby, thinking that your baby doesn’t connect or like you and comparing yourself and abilities to others.

For some a lack of appetite, poor sleep patterns and the need to keep awake to watch over your baby are significant.

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Risk factors

Pregnant mothers who have just given birth may feel overwhelmed by the changes they face while adjusting to motherhood, new mothers and mothers who have experienced miscarriage or with pre-existing mental health disorders are at particular risk.

  • History of insomnia.
  • History of anxiety or depression.
  • Experienced ante-natal mood disorders earlier in pregnancy.
  • Pre-existing mental health issues.
  • A family history of mental health issues.
  • Unwanted pregnancies.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse problems.
  • Pre-existing eating disorders.
Key Highlight

Baby blues usually resolves itself within the first two weeks of adjusting to your new baby’s arrival, however this is a personal and individual experience and sometimes can extend itself depending on your physical, emotional and personal situation.

How is baby blues diagnosed?

It can be very difficult to diagnose baby blues just through symptoms, as symptoms can be similar to many other mental and physical health conditions. A doctor may diagnose baby blues after an examination that includes questions about symptoms, a physical exam.

The Stein test is a special scale for measuring baby blues that examines 13 symptoms, the minimum score is 0 and the maximum 26, with a score equal to or above 8 when examined within post childbirth. The measured symptoms on the Stein scale include depression, anxiety, calmness, restlessness, dreaming, exhaustion, headache, poor concentration, irritability, forgetfulness and confusion.

Scores have been shown to peaked around the 5th day post-birth. Which emphasises the level of vigilance to mental health needs of mothers beyond immediate ward care, as most mothers are discharged with 2 days of giving birth.

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How to treat the baby blues

To work your way through the baby blues, there are some steps you can take. It is important to be open to the feelings and allow time to adjust. Take time for your yourself and relax with your baby and partner.

  • Give yourself time but be sure to recognise if these feelings are persisting and if you need to speak with a medical professional;
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep when baby sleeps;
  • Ensure that you eat healthy and nutritious foods with a good diet in mind;
  • Exercise as part of your normal routine or create a new routine which includes baby;
  • Seek support from partner, family and friends, recognise when you need help, support or companionship.

Secure a bond with your baby

Securing a bond with your baby is always important. This is especially important if you have the baby blues. Ensure that you spend quality time with your baby, connecting and getting to know one another and develop your own way of communicating together. You can secure your bond with your baby by:

  • Connection building through smiling, gurgling and laughing together;
  • Enjoy physical contact during bath time, feeding, infant massage, playtime;
  • Build and strengthen relationships within your unit and the safe relationships you form together.

If you feel you are not bonding with your infant talk about this with a professional or someone you trust. It may be beneficial to access additional support or about finding ways to build your confidence in your relationship with your baby, including understanding your baby’s development and expectations of your relationship as you get to know one another.

Take care of yourself

Self care is always important. Allow yourself time to physically recover from your recent pregnancy, delivery and adjusting to being a new parent. Take the time to acknowledge all the changes you are experiencing and appreciate what your body has been through as it continues to change. You can do this by:

  • Ensuring you get get enough sleep, rest when baby sleeps;
  • Don’t worry about household chores, the laundry can be folded later;
  • Eat well and where possible include healthy options that are good for you and your body healing;
  • Ask for help with meals preparation;
  • Take time out for some fresh air, and include gentle exercise when you feel able;
  • Relax with your new baby and partner.

Lean on family for help and support

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your family, friends and support network will understand that you are adjusting and will more often be happy to be able to help.

It is common to feel like you are being judged for not coping, however if you reach out and ask for help with what will be of benefit to you, this can be overcome. This may be asking for meals to be delivered or cooked for you, which will save you juggling time for meals.

Make time to have a nap or just rest in a quiet place if you need to.

Arrange with family or friends to have someone to talk to when you need to share how you feel, you can also consider support lines or someone you trust.

Make time for your relationship with your partner

When you can, allow time for you as a couple and build connections as a new family unit and recognise the changes to your relationship before baby to now.

You can talk about how you feel and any common feelings or concerns as you adjust, you may be feeling the same or you may not, and this is a way to discover this through conversation and communication. It’s always good to communicate and share your thoughts and feelings.

When you can, plan some time out for a dinner date even if it’s at home when baby is sleeping. Seek help from those you trust as a babysitter, if this works for you to have some time out as a couple without any concerns about the care of your baby. Sometimes getting out of the house and having a change of scenery can be beneficial.

 Staying active & exercising

If this was your usual routine, gradually get back on track, however, if it isn’t, exercise could be as simple as breathing or stretching to start with, or yoga.

Set achievable goals, relate to what you used to do and your exercise history.

The benefits of serotonin and fresh air to help work through the baby blues is essential. You can create a routine that will fit in with self -care and care for baby, for example, enjoying a walk together in the neighbourhood park.

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Support groups

Seek support from counselling groups to see that you are not the only one feeling this way, this may about building new friendships and connections for you and your baby. Some groups may have a focus particularly in relation to your relationship with your baby.

COPE (Centre of Perinatal Excellence) provides the e-COPE Directory to help you find a treatment service with expertise in perinatal mental health or a support service in your community.

When to seek medical treatment

If you are feeling that your baby blues are persisting and last longer than a couple of weeks, make an appointment to see your GP before your 6 week postnatal visit to check whether postpartum depression may the cause of your mood swings and emotional lows.

If you are experiencing a combination of the following more severe symptoms, you may be suffering from baby postpartum psychosis and should seek immediate help:

• Disorientation and confusion.

• Obsessive thoughts about your baby.

• Hallucinations and delusions.

• Severe insomnia.

• Excessive energy and agitation.

• Paranoia.

• Attempts to harm yourself or your baby.

Try and recognise your feelings and changes in your mood, if they persist seek support and assessment. The GP may refer you to a mental health professional.

Helping a new mother with baby blues

Give yourself time to adjust and try to share how you are feeling with someone you trust, which could be a partner, friends or family members.

Some feelings a new mother experiences can relate to the birth experience, which could include that the birthing wasn’t what you expected, or feeding your baby isn’t what you expected.

Some mothers start to worry about all that is ahead including returning to work before they have had time to get to know their baby, or you may feel the pressures if the end of maternity leave or your personal finances. Take time to understand just how resilient you are in coping in this new dynamic as you get to know one another.

If you feel you need to reach out to someone, you can also call a helpline or speak to your GP or local Child Health Nurse.

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Can your partner have the baby blues?

Partners may not experience the physical changes associated with pregnancy, and birth, however they can feel a sense of fear and adjustment to becoming the parent of a small and vulnerable infant and caring for their partner following the birth experience.

Some partners find the adjustment to parenting just as overwhelming as their partner especially if they have experienced a traumatic or long labour or baby has been born prematurely.

A greater awareness can be developed around how their partner is now preoccupied with the new baby and less time for them as a couple, this may also be associated to adjusting to their partner feeding their baby.

Your partner may also experience and feel the changes you are feeling, this may present itself in the same way are experiencing or differently. If you notice changes, encourage them to share how they feel or seek support from friends or family that they trust.

Some symptoms partners may experience include anxiety and depression, including impacts of fatigue and trying to maintain the juggles of being a parent and wanting to be seen as coping.

Partners can seek support to understand how they are feeling and whether this is anxiety or depression symptoms.

The same protective supports and behaviours apply for partners, to have positive networks, physical health, rest, healthy eating, time as a family and assessing services if they identify concerns for their emotional wellbeing.

It’s not just you. These feelings are common

If you are experiencing baby blues, you are not alone, up to 80% of women can be affected and it is therefore not unusual to feel this way following arrival of your new baby.

There is no wrong or right way to work through this experience as a new parent, you will find ways to adjust that work for you and your new family.

Try not to compare yourself to others and know that it is normal to seek additional support as the role of a new parent is demanding and will result in the impacts of fatigue.

Don’t take for granted the changes you personally are adjusting to always ensure that you talk to your partner or your trusted circle of family, friends and support network about how you feel.

Frequently Asked Questions

See below our answers to some of the most commonly asked questions we receive about baby blues.

How long does baby blues last?
Is it normal to cry alot after having a baby?
When should I go see a doctor?
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