Coming Out Of The Dark

While about 80 percent of new mothers experience the "baby blues" after baby is born, 10 percent experience full-fledged postpartum depression. What's the difference and how can you cope?

Sad woman with hands over her mouth

Baby blues vs. postpartum depression

The "baby blues" are extremely common among new mothers. They begin as early as a few days after childbirth and can last for between a few days and two weeks. They are generally defined by surges of emotion, crying and waves of sadness, irritability, moodiness and tiredness.

Postpartum depression (PPD), on the other hand, does not start until two or three weeks after delivery when hormones are fluctuating up and down to the point that they start to affect the brain's mood chemistry. Symptoms are similar to the baby blues, though may feel more extreme and may also include feelings of hopelessness and despair. Women experiencing PPD may feel overwhelmed and disconnected from their babies, may have trouble concentrating or may lose their appetite. PPD can also lead to thoughts of suicide or harming baby.

How to deal

The baby blues generally go away on their own after the two weeks -- though if the feelings still linger beyond that time, call your doctor.

Postpartum depression goes beyond the baby blues -- it does not generally go away on its own and you should seek your doctor's advice right away if your feelings of sadness are getting the best of you. Your doctor may be able to suggest therapy or medication that can help you work through PPD.

There are many things you can do do combat the feelings of the baby blues and PPD on your own, however. Get plenty of rest (even if that means you have to get a sitter or call the new Grandma or Aunt to come over for an hour or two so you can grab a nap during the day since your nighttime hours are now generally interrupted by feedings and diaper changes). Understand that it's okay to accept help from your partner, family and friends in the early days of new parenthood.

It's also important to maintain your energy and health by getting the proper nutrition. Don't skip meals or rely on just fast food because you're suddenly too busy to cook (trust us, we get it!). Stock up on fresh fruit, healthy protein-packed snacks like hummus and raw veggies. And get some exercise, as soon as your doctor gives you the okay.

Don't let your feelings isolate you from your partner, loved ones and friends. There is nothing to be ashamed of and sometimes it helps to simply vent about your feelings. Open up to your husband or a trusted friend and, along with the help of your doctor, you'll be on your way to becoming your old self again.

More on new motherhood and postpartum depression

Pregnancy hormone may link to postpartum depression
Vanessa Lachey's battle with baby blues: "I felt like I had officially come undone"
Break out of new mom isolation

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