Is it baby blues or postpartum depression?

mom with port partum depression holding a baby

Is it baby blues and postpartum depression?

"People often conflate the terms ‘baby blues' and ‘postpartum depression', using them interchangeably, when in reality they are not the same thing," said Leah M. Mello, MD, Obstetrics/Gynecology (Ob/Gyn) at ARC Seton Northwest in this recent issue of Four Points News.

Dr. Mello outlined the differences, which center on symptoms and timing, saying there are two major areas where baby blues and postpartum depression can differ:

  • Timing. The baby blues occur sometimes only for a few hours each day and often disappear within 14 days after delivery. Postpartum depression on the other hand can occur within four weeks to several months after childbirth and can last up to a year.
  • Symptoms. Some of the symptoms of baby blues are irritability, fatigue, and sadness. These can also be symptoms of postpartum depression, but with postpartum depression, other symptoms can be more severe and include aggression, extreme stress, and potentially feelings of detachment from the baby.

Causes of baby blues and postpartum depression

Dr. Mello also addressed causes, explaining them with a few caveats.

The exact cause of the baby blues is unknown, but it is thought to be related to:

  • Changes in hormone levels.
  • Lifestyle adjustments.

Postpartum depression can also be caused by a combination of factors, similar to baby blues, but with perhaps additional factors. These additional underlying factors can include the following:

  • History of depression.
  • Emotional factors such as doubt, guilt, feat, and anger.
  • Fatigue. Many women feel exhausted after giving birth. It can take weeks for a woman to regain her normal strength and energy.
  • Lifestyle factors.

Seeking help

"Baby blues generally go away on their own within a few weeks after childbirth and do not require additional medical intervention," says Dr. Mello. "On the other hand, if you think you may have postpartum depression, or if you think your baby blues are not going away, it is important to see your ob/gyn or other primary care giver as soon as possible."

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) now recommends that all women have contact with their health care provider within three weeks of giving birth and continue to seek ongoing medical care during the postpartum period, as needed. "Seeing your physician sooner and more often can help you and your doctor spot signs and symptoms of both health and mental health issues," adds Dr. Mello. "Bottom line--you do not have to wait for a postpartum checkup to seek help—if you need it, get it."

Make an appointment today

Book an appointment today with Dr. Mello online or by calling ARC Seton Northwest at 512-338-8181.

Tags: Postpartum depression, Baby blues