Are You Experiencing Postpartum Depression or “Baby Blues”?

By: Jayson Tripp, MD


Birth is a life-changing experience, both physically and mentally. It’s a time of celebration, but it’s also normal to feel exhausted and anxious during the first few weeks of motherhood. The emotional ups and downs of being a new mother take time to get used to. Severe and prolonged periods of sadness, however, may be a sign of postpartum depression. But what is postpartum depression, and how do you know if you’re experiencing the “baby blues” or a more serious mental health issue? 

What is Baby Blues? 

Baby blues refers to a short period of sadness experienced by new mothers after giving birth. This can begin within the first few days after birth and may continue for up to two weeks. It is extremely common, affecting up to 80% of new mothers, and is considered a postpartum symptom rather than a psychiatric illness due to its prevalence. 

Symptoms of baby blues can include:  

  • Anxiety and irritability  
  • Exhaustion  
  • Frequent crying with little to no discernible cause
  • Feeling overwhelmed 
  • Feeling uncertain about your capabilities as a mother 
  • Trouble sleeping 

What is Postpartum Depression? 

Postpartum depression, or PPD, is a severe, long-lasting form of depression experienced by about 10% of new mothers. This condition requires a different diagnosis than baby blues and carries a more severe set of symptoms which can begin as early as a few months before giving birth and continue up to a year after giving birth. 

Symptoms of postpartum depression can include:   

  • Intense mood swings   
  • Frequent crying with little to no discernible cause 
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Isolation from family and friends  
  • Loss of appetite or overeating 
  • Insomnia or fatigue 
  • Apathy towards activities you enjoyed before pregnancy  
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, or inadequacy as a mother 
  • Anxiety and panic attacks   
  • Intrusive thoughts of harming yourself and/or your baby   
  • Suicidal ideation 

How Do You Know if You Have Postpartum Depression or Baby Blues? 

Asking what is postpartum depression can be difficult when baby blues and postpartum depression share indicators, but there are a few distinguishing factors to consider. 

First occurrence 

Baby blues is triggered by elevated estrogen and progesterone levels immediately following birth, causing symptoms to appear two or three days after giving birth. Postpartum depression, however, can begin before delivery or any time in the first year following childbirth.

Length of time

Baby blues tend to peak during the first week after delivery and tapers off after week two or three. If your feelings of sadness last longer than this two-to-three-week period or become more severe, this may be a sign of postpartum depression.

Symptom severity 

While it is common to feel sad or teary without reason after giving birth, medical treatment should be considered if your depressive feelings become so intense that they are impacting your daily life and your bond with your newborn.

Risk factors 

Anyone can experience postpartum depression, though individuals with a personal or family history of depression (postpartum or otherwise) or other mood disorders are at increased risk. Other risk factors such as financial instability and relationship stress can also contribute. 

Postpartum Depression Treatment  

Postpartum depression, like other forms of depression, can be treated with antidepressants, though many medications carry negative side effects and take weeks to provide lasting relief. For mothers who experience no change in their symptoms after other treatment options, your doctor may recommend more advanced treatment options such as TMS therapy , ketamine infusion , or a combination of the two for quicker, long-term relief. Both are safe and effective treatments for postpartum depression and can provide you with a better chance of remission. 

If you are experiencing baby blues or postpartum depression, know that it is not your fault. Though motherhood is often depicted as a joyous time, it can also be difficult for new mothers who are experiencing baby blues or postpartum depression. Know that you are not alone in your struggle, and there are treatment options that can offer hope. Contact Serenity Mental Health Centers  today to discuss your treatment options and to schedule an appointment for a postpartum depression screening.

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*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.