The Difference Between Baby Blues and Postnatal Depression

During your pregnancy, you’ll have been made aware of something called the ‘Baby Blues’. The Baby Blues are a completely natural, albeit not very pleasant, part of being a new Mum.

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At some point too, your midwife or health visitor may have spoken to you about Postnatal Depression. Both Postnatal Depression and Baby Blues certainly feel similar and so it can be confusing for new Mums, especially those with a history of depression.

With the help of our community, we’ve put together some information for you, to help you distinguish between the two.

If you’re ever in any doubt, please don’t hesitate to ask your Health Visitor or Doctor.

What are the ‘Baby Blues’

You may go through a period after the birth when you feel really down; this is absolutely normal and quite often referred to as ‘Baby Blues’. Many of the symptoms linked with Baby Blues are like those of Postnatal Depression. You may struggle with mood swings, insomnia, irritability and find yourself regularly bursting into tears.

It is normal to feel overwhelmed during those first few weeks of becoming a parent. Think about what your body has just been through. It has been put through the mill, not to mention your mind, emotions and the massive change in your daily life.

“I had baby blues which hit hard on day 3 and made me very weepy and tearful for no reason, particularly with my first son. However I was still coping and it only lasted a few days. After that I would have difficult days – particularly as my son was a really bad sleeper. But my overriding emotions were of happiness and contentment so I knew I was OK at that time. I’m lucky to have a good understanding of my own signs that depression is digging in again so felt confident trusting my own judgement although because of my history and physical illnesses (which pregnancy triggered) my GP and health visitor kept a close eye on my too”.

How long do Baby Blues last?

It varies – they can last for a few days or a couple of weeks, typically fading after two weeks. If you find that they are lasting longer or that they seem to be getting much worse, it’s definitely worth speaking to your Health Visitor or Doctor.

What is Postnatal Depression?

“Postnatal Depression is a depressive illness which affects between 10 to 15 in every 100 women having a baby. The symptoms are similar to those in depression at other times. These include low mood and other symptoms lasting at least two weeks.”  PND and Me

Although the symptoms of Baby Blues and Postnatal Depression are similar, Postnatal Depression can last for much longer periods and can feel even more intense. It is possible that you will have suicidal thoughts or you may feel that you are unable to look after your baby. If this is the case contact your Doctor or Health Visitor as soon as possible.

The symptoms of Postnatal Depression may include but are not limited to:

  • – Feeling low
  • – Tearful
  • – Increased anxiety,
  • – Feeling overwhelmed,
  • – Being irritable,
  • – Feeling worthless
  • – Constant feeling of guilt
  • – Withdrawal from the people closest to you

“I had post natal depression after my son was born 13 years ago. I had been warned about the ‘baby blues’ so thought that most women felt like I did after getting home with their new addition. It was only when I finally plucked up the courage to speak to my (not particularly supportive) health visitor and completed the Edinburgh assessment thingy, that I was told that I had PND.”

“PND consumes you. There is a sense of losing grip on reality…For me, I never had issues bonding with my baby (either time), but I felt everyone – including him – would be better off without me.”

How long does Postnatal Depression last?

The truth is, its hard to tell how long it will last. It will depend on how soon you reach out for help and also on the support you receive from your Doctor, Health Visitor and loved ones.

Where to go for help

As with any form of depression, asking for help is often the hardest thing to do.

Your GP and Health Visitor will be able to give you advice on the best course of action for you.  It may be that you decide under their guidance to start taking some medication.  If you decide to take medication, it may take a while to start working and for you to start feeling better. It could take a few weeks for you to notice a difference.

If you are breastfeeding make sure you talk to your Doctor about any concerns you may have about taking any medication.  If medication isn’t the way for you then your Doctor may offer you a course of counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and be able to point you in the direction of some places to support you.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for support from different sources – the more supported you feel, the better.