The majority of women experience at least some symptoms of the baby blues immediately after childbirth. It is a feeling precipitated by the sudden change in hormones after delivery as well as stress, isolation, sleep deprivation and fatigue. She might feel more tearful, overwhelmed and emotionally fragile. Generally, this will start within the ﬁrst couple of days after delivery, peak around one week, and taper off by the end of the second week postpartum.
Unlike the baby blues, postpartum depression is a more serious problem — one that shouldn’t be ignored. However, it’s not always easy to distinguish between the two. In the beginning, postpartum depression can look like the normal baby blues. In fact, postpartum depression and the baby blues share many symptoms, including mood swings, crying jags, sadness, insomnia and irritability. The difference is that with postpartum depression, the symptoms are more severe (such as suicidal thoughts or an inability to care for the baby) and longer lasting. Postpartum depression is a common illness, with your support and patience, your loved one will become herself again.
Tips for Dads and Partners
Postpartum depression affects the whole family. Here are some tips that might help you and your new mom along the way.
Common symptoms of depression and anxiety:
- Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and insecure
- Crying spells, sadness and hopelessness
- Anger, irritability and frustration
- Repetitive fears and worries
- Withdrawing from her partner or being unable to bond well with her baby
- Anxiety that prevents mom from sleeping – even when the baby is sleeping or eating appropriately.
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Preoccupied with death or even wishing she was not alive
How to Help Mom
- Reassure her: this is not her fault; she is not alone; she will get better.
- Encourage her to talk about her feelings and listen without judgment.
- Help with housework before she asks.
- Don’t expect her to be super-housewife.
- Encourage her to take time for herself; fatigue worsens symptoms.
- Come home on time.
- Help her reach out to others for support and treatment.
- Schedule a date with her and work together to ﬁnd a babysitter.
- Offer simple affection and physical comfort, but be patient if she is not up for sex; low sex drive is common with depression.
- Rest and recovery is key.
Dealing With Mom’s Anger and Irritability
- Help her eat regularly, because low blood sugar results in moods and frustration. Stock up on healthy and easy snacks.
- Do your best to listen for the real request at the heart of her frustration. Reduce conﬂict by telling her, “I know we can work this out. I am listening.”
- Keep the lines of communication open. Verbalize your feelings instead of distancing from her. It is helpful to take a break if your tempers are hot, but continue to communicate.
- If she is expressing anger in such a way that you can’t stay supportive, you might say something like, “I want to listen to you. I know this is important, but I’m having a hard time because you’re so mad at me. Can we take a break and talk about it later?”
- Ask her how you can help right now. If she doesn’t know, make some suggestions.
Read these dads’ stories about their experiences with postpartum depression.
If you or a partner need support, contact Woman’s Social Services or call the Postpartum Support Warmline 1-800-944-4PPD.