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Baby Blues

Topic Overview

Many women get postpartum blues, also called the "baby blues," during the first few days after childbirth. They may lose sleep, feel irritable, cry easily, and feel happy one minute and sad the next. Hormone changes are one cause of these emotional changes. Also, the demands of a new baby, coupled with visits from relatives or other family needs, add to a mother's stress. The "baby blues" usually peak around the fourth day and then ease up in less than 2 weeks.

Symptoms

Symptoms of the baby blues include:1

  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Mood swings.
  • Tearfulness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Sadness.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Irritability.
  • Poor concentration.

In some women, sometime in the first 3 months after delivery, the baby blues become a more serious condition called postpartum depression. Postpartum depression affects up to 15 out of 100 women.1 If your moodiness or anxiety lasts for more than 2 weeks, or if you feel like life isn't worth living, you may have postpartum depression. For more information, see the topic Postpartum Depression.

Managing the baby blues

Although you can't prevent the postpartum hormone changes that cause the baby blues, you can take steps to prevent ongoing postpartum depression (PPD).

To minimize the effects of postpartum hormonal changes and stress, keep your body and mind strong.

  • Ask for help from others, so you can get as much sleep, healthy food, exercise, and overall support as possible.
  • Stay away from alcohol, caffeine, and other drugs or medicines unless recommended by your doctor.
  • Check in with your doctor. Close monitoring after childbirth is important. If you are worried about developing PPD, have your first postnatal checkup 3 or 4 weeks after childbirth rather than the typical 6 weeks.
  • Join a support group of new mothers. No one can better understand and support the challenges of caring for a new baby than other postpartum women. For more information on support groups, talk to your doctor or see the website of Postpartum Support International at www.postpartum.net.

References

Citations

  1. Cunningham FG, et al. (2010). Neurological and psychiatric disorders. In Williams Obstetrics, 23rd ed., pp. 1164–1184. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised March 15, 2012

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