Having a baby is the change of a lifetime! It marks the beginning of a bigger family and the ushering in of many new milestones. But while babies give many mothers the picture-perfect emotions of happiness and pride, some mothers end up feeling quite the opposite, with some suffering from postnatal depression.
If you’re a new mother who has been feeling under the weather lately, chances are you’re having the baby blues.
80% of new mothers experience baby blues, which happens because your hormones naturally drop after you’ve given birth. However, a smaller 10% of women develop postnatal depression.
And it’s not just women who suffer from it. Even men can suffer from postnatal depression.
So are the emotions you’ve been feeling just the baby blues, or could it be postnatal depression?
Before we learn more about the differences, here’s a general rule of thumb: the timeframe in which symptoms occur is a key distinguishing factor.
Baby blues usually go away after two weeks. But if you’re suffering from postnatal depression, it can last up to a year or even longer.
Here’s a deeper dive into the differences between postnatal depression and baby blues, so you can cope, recover and stay healthy for your baby.
Do you have postnatal depression?
Postnatal depression is a persistent depressive mood that can overwhelm mothers. In more severe cases, the condition can become very tiring and overwhelming. This can result in mothers being unable to look after themselves and their baby.
Postnatal depression is far more severe than baby blues and can last much longer. If you have experience dealing with bouts of depression or if depression runs in your family, you’ll have a higher likelihood of developing postnatal depression.
Typically beginning within the first six weeks of birth, postnatal depression can end up lasting for more than a year. Many women don’t even notice it, and simply think that they’re just feeling low.
Furthermore, some sufferers may choose not to get help because they’re afraid of the stigma that’s attached to mental health issues.
The signs and symptoms of postnatal depression will vary for each mother. However, there are some common symptoms that you can look out for. These include:
- Low mood
- Extreme tiredness
- Poor quality of sleep
- Loss of interest in activities
- Low self-esteem
- Sense of guilt and hopelessness
- Poor appetite
- Body aches
- Negative feelings toward baby
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of self harm
Or do you just have the baby blues?
With the whirlwind of emotions and tiredness that comes with having a baby, baby blues might begin when your newborn is only two to three days old.
If you’ve got the baby blues, you can take relief in the fact that you will feel better by the time your baby is one or two weeks old. In addition, the baby blues may occur only for a few hours each day.
Much like postnatal depression, the symptoms of baby blues can vary from mother to mother. The common symptoms of baby blues include:
- Mood swings from happy to sad
- Fluctuating self-esteem (feelings of self-pride one minute, and self-doubt the next)
- Lack of desire to eat or maintain personal wellness due to exhaustion
Baby blues can be left to run its course, and your mental well-being will return to normal soon as the hormones in your body go back to normal levels.
Before we move on to discuss how you can deal with postnatal depression, here’s a table summarising the key similarities and differences between postnatal depression and baby blues.
|Postnatal Depression||Baby Blues|
– Can lasts for four weeks, several months, a year, or more
– Occurs for a few hours everyday and disappears within one to two weeks after childbirth
– Anxiety and panic attacks
– Constant low mood
– Constant low self-esteem
– Poor appetite
– Negative feelings towards baby
– Extreme tiredness paired with inability to sleep or low sleep quality
– Loss of interest in activities
– Sense of guilt and hopelessness
– Body aches
– Thoughts of self harm
– Mood swings
– Fluctuating self-esteem
– Too exhausted to eat and look after self
New fathers are susceptible to postnatal depression too
Before we look at ways to deal with postnatal depression, did you know that new fathers are also susceptible to it?
Most fathers don’t get help because of a lack of awareness regarding the situation, and due to the stigma surrounding postnatal depression and mental illness in general.
Postnatal depression in fathers is actually far more common than you might think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health there were an estimated 4-10% of fathers experience depression during their partner’s pregnancy, or the first year after childbirth.
While mothers bear most of the weight of pregnancy, fathers are also riddled with stress and worry during the period of pregnancy. After all, dealing with a new addition to the family is no easy undertaking.
How to deal with postnatal depression
To deal with postnatal depression, the first thing to do is to spot the symptoms in you and your partner.
Sometimes, the symptoms may also be easily confused with the result of being exhausted from days of working and caring for your little one. Once you’ve identified your symptoms, think about whether you’ve had them for more than two weeks.
If you have, then you’re likely experiencing postnatal depression. Here are some ways to help you deal with postnatal depression.
1. Open up to your partner
If you think that you may have postnatal depression, it’s time to open up to your partner and start talking about it!
Sharing what you’re going through can help relieve some of the burden. This will also help your partner to understand your feelings and be more accommodating. Your relationship and your well-being will thank you!
If you spot postnatal depression in your partner, take the initiative and get a conversation going about it. Giving your partner moral and emotional support can help them deal with the condition better and be more open about what they’re experiencing.
Bear in mind that the symptoms of postnatal depression can persist and worsen, which could potentially result in harm to your baby.
If symptoms persist, it’s in the best interest of your family that you speak to a healthcare professional.
2. Get professional help for postnatal depression
You can be assured that anything you share with your doctor is confidential, and a specialist will be able to offer you medical help to help you recover from postnatal depression.
While the idea of getting help can be daunting, seeing a psychiatrist in Singapore can be relatively straightforward because you don’t need a referral. Furthermore, you can ask your obstetrician-gynaecologist for a referral if that’s something you prefer.
If you’re looking to find the perfect fit for a healthcare professional, you can also ask your family doctor or parenting support groups for personal referrals.
After you’re connected with a healthcare professional, they will assess your emotional state and determine the severity of your postnatal depression. They may also run a blood test or two to ensure that your symptoms aren’t being caused by something else
You might not have to worry too much about taking medication, as most cases of postnatal depression can be fixed with self-help techniques. You may also be offered talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy or interpersonal therapy.
Depending on the severity of your postnatal depression, your doctor may also prescribe you antidepressants. Antidepressants are not addictive, and will likely be prescribed for a length of time, since they take about two weeks of continued consumption to work. Breastfeeding and other aspects of your health will also be taken into account.
Instead of trawling parenting forums and looking for a healthcare professional who can treat you, get advice for your postnatal depression easily and quickly with MyDoc. Apart from being able to see a doctor in less than 20 minutes, you can opt for medication delivery services so you can spend more time with your baby. Find out more on the MyDoc Patients Page.
In the meantime, you can also make some adjustments to your lifestyle to take some of the edge and exhaustion off of taking care of your baby.
3. Learn how to deal with the stress
Ask for help
Looking after a newborn baby is no easy task. The mere sound of a baby’s ear-piercing cry is enough to drive most people up the wall.
It’s unreasonable to think that you can multitask your way through everything and remain afloat. Not to mention the fact that you’ll be less capable of caring for your baby if you neglect your own well-being. So give up the guilt of asking for help! Nobody can do it all and do it well.
Learning to ask for help when you need it can help ensure that you’re well enough to take care of yourself and your baby. In fact, your friends and family might be more than happy to come around and help with taking care of your baby.
If they have their own children, they may even be able to offer advice and hacks on looking after a baby. What’s more, getting your baby to bond with close friends and family is a good thing. After all, they are the same people that your child will be growing up around.
Getting help is especially important if your partner has gone back to work and you no longer have an extra pair of hands. Asking for help with household chores and other errands that have piled up will also give you more time to bond with your baby.
A word of advice? Choose your helpers wisely and avoid enlisting the help of individuals whom you think might make you feel more stressed, since that’s the last thing you need.
For example, some individuals might take offence if you don’t heed their advice on how to care for your baby, so you might want to avoid asking them for more help.
If help is not readily available, you can also pay for temporary maid services, ask neighbours for help or even enlist the help of a doula. Doulas specialise in supporting new parents with newborn care, meal preparation and some housework.
If you’re dealing with postnatal depression, there’s a greater tendency for you to neglect your well-being and spend less effort on eating well. However, eating well regularly can actually help you to feel better, replenishing your exhausted body with the nutrients it needs to recover from months of strain from childbirth.
But with all the baby-related errands you have to run on a day-to-day basis, food might just be too much of a hassle for you. If you feel like cooking is too time consuming, you can always include simple whole foods like chopped carrots or apple slices as part of your meal. These are both nutritious and easy to get your hands on.
If you enjoy planning meals, it might be a good idea to plan the week’s meals on the weekend. After all, when caring for a baby, food delivery for every meal might not be a sustainable option. If you can spare the time, you can also prepare your meals and freeze them.
All this will give you more time to have proper meals while caring for your baby. Every minute matters when you’re caring for a baby. For example, if your baby is asleep and it’s opportune for you to eat, having food stocked and ready means you don’t have to waste too much time deciding on and preparing your food!
Try to get more sleep
You may have heard this piece of advice often: “sleep when your baby sleeps”. While you might be skeptical of this advice since you might already be finding it difficult to sleep, the reasons you need more sleep are backed by science.
A 2009 report suggests that women who got less than four hours of sleep between midnight and 6 a.m., or fewer than 60 minutes of napping through the day, experienced the most depressive symptoms.
If your baby doesn’t sleep at night, what you can do is to try taking naps or go to bed early. If breast-feeding gets in the way of your sleep, you can consider pumping a bottle of milk so that you don’t have to be awake for overnight feeding sessions every day.
Getting continuously good sleep is important to make sure that you’re able to give you and your baby the best!
Bond with your baby
Bonding with your baby can be an important part of breaking through postnatal depression. A healthy attachment between parents and babies is extremely essential. These attachments, built on shared experiences, help to develop a sense of trust and connection between babies and their caregivers.
Mothers dealing with postnatal depression may feel deeply guilty about feeling unwell, and may begin to think that they are incapable of forming connections with their baby. As such, mothers may end up overcompensating by trying to care even more for their baby. In turn, they may feel even more tired and depleted.
However, bonding with your baby doesn’t mean you have to be with your baby all the time.
Bonding can happen in different ways. This can be as simple as caring for your newborn, looking at and touching your baby, and rocking your baby to sleep. Carrying out all this will be more difficult if you feel depleted all the time.
Afraid of messing up? Don’t worry! Minor mistakes and disappointments are also a healthy part of bonding with your baby.
4. Enjoy more “me” time
Although becoming a new mother comes with many new responsibilities, there’s nothing more important than keeping yourself well. And that begins from the moment you have your baby.
Giving yourself some “me time” will help ensure that you and your partner both get much-needed self-love.
Having a baby could push just about anyone to their limits, so keep your mental resilience at a healthy level by doing the things that you love.
Whether it’s a day of splurging through retail therapy or breaking a sweat with a favourite outdoor activity, doing the things that make you “you” serves as a reminder that you have control of your life.
This also helps you regain a greater sense of well-being, which can help you provide better care for your baby.
If childbirth has led to you neglecting your relationship with your partner, do your best to spend more couple time together.
And if there’s somebody that you trust enough to take care of your baby when you’re not around, ask them if they can cover you and your partner for half a day while you go get a quick breather.