mother holding baby, baby blues or postpartum depression

Whether your delivery went as you had envisioned or was much harder than you imagined it would be, mamas, you are amazing! May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a good time to better understand baby blues and postpartum depression and the differences between them.

Baby Blues

Baby blues are very common, affecting 85% of women around the time of delivery and in the two weeks following. You may feel happy one minute and tearful the next, as well as overwhelmed, irritable, confused, and tired. You will likely feel tired and overwhelmed for weeks to come, but with baby blues, you can expect them to pass in about ten days.

If you’re feeling them…

So is almost every other mom at this miraculous time. Your body has supported another life, literally, for a long time and your hormones have orchestrated the process. Hormones regulate so much of your life, from moods to sleep to hunger, to major organ function, to telling your body to push, and so much more.

Don’t be shy or feel selfish or guilty about asking for support. Support for you translates to support for the baby, and the baby is probably getting a lot of attention already. Don’t hesitate to ask for things like a hug, a meal, and a chance to sleep a little more than the little you are already getting. If you’re struggling with any aspect of motherhood, let your OB-GYN, doula, or child’s pediatrician know. They can provide a resource list or referral if needed.

How to treat baby blues

The treatment for baby blues is love, support, reassurance, and sleep.

Chart showing treatment options for baby blues

If you’re still feeling hard emotions in two to three weeks, it’s time to talk to your OB-GYN, PCP, or your child’s pediatrician.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) is the most common complication of childbirth and affects 10-20% of new mothers.

Risk Factors

The most common risk factors for PPD include a high-conflict relationship with the baby’s father, socioeconomic challenges, lack of support from family, friends, or the baby’s father, anxiety or unhappiness during the pregnancy, and a history of mood or anxiety disorder, especially bipolar disorder.


The symptoms of postpartum depression are the same as those of major depression. These include two weeks of symptoms such as sadness that won’t let up, not being able to feel pleasure, disturbance to sleep and/or appetite, difficulty concentrating, feeling mentally or physically slowed down, fatigue, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, or suicidal thoughts.

These symptoms could be postpartum depression if they start anywhere from four weeks after delivery up to twelve months after delivery. Moms suffering from postpartum depression could also experience thoughts of harming their baby and obsessive worries or preoccupations with their baby.

chart about postpartum depression, baby blues or postpartum depression

Getting Help

The number one reason new moms don’t get help is because of a reluctance to tell anyone. It’s a time when mom is “supposed to be” full of joy, so when she feels depressed instead, she can feel guilty and judged.

Other reasons postpartum depression goes untreated include a reluctance to use medication during lactation, lots of attention paid to the baby while mom feels overlooked, and healthcare professionals not screening moms for PPD at their follow-up appointments throughout the first twelve months postpartum. There are serious risks if PPD goes untreated, including physical and emotional risks to mother and baby, emotional and cognitive development issues with the baby, feeding difficulties, parent-child bonding issues, and, in extreme cases, infant mortality.

If you’re feeling symptoms of PPD, please tell someone and keep telling someone until you have the help you need. If your OB-GYN, PCP, or child’s pediatrician has not screened you for postpartum depression, please consider using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and bringing it to your doctor.

With support from friends, family, and caring, knowledgeable professionals, you will be feeling better soon.


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