“Just know that the baby blues will come. They will come, they will happen, embrace them. Your partner will help and support you…” - Veteran Mom
While the baby blues and PPMDs share overlapping symptoms (mood swings, crying, anxiousness, irritability), they’re very different beasts. The biggest difference is the baby blues come and go, but PPMDs last longer and have a much bigger impact on your ability to function, mentally and physically. The most severe (and rare) mood disorder is postpartum psychosis, which can involve losing touch with reality, hallucinations, irrational thinking, and extreme thoughts and fears.
Left untreated, mood disorders can hijack your ability to enjoy motherhood and life, and knowing the difference between the blues and PPMDs will help you and Dad understand what’s going on. It’s also important for your partner to know the signs, because we’re going through so much as a new mom that it’s often easier for those close to us to spot when something’s not right.
"I didn’t think I would be balling my eyes out. It happens when you least expect it. I think everybody cries the first couple months. I definitely had the baby blues. Thankfully I had my spouse to support me." - Veteran Mom
"We had a lot of family from Mexico and when they all left, the fact that I didn’t have anyone to hold him for five minutes or anyone to talk to...the isolation was a big factor with my baby blues." - Veteran Mom
This is huge. If help is offered from family, friends, your church, community, wherever—YES! Having help lightens your load, allows you to get some rest, and keeps you from feeling overwhelmed. And this study revealed that moms who felt supported were less prone to depression: The more support you line up, the better.
"You have a lot of doctor appointments those first few weeks and you're not really good at getting out of the house or putting your life together during that time. So having your significant other or a friend or family member go with you is super helpful—just having another set of hands and the company." — Veteran Mom
We all know sleep deprivation is an actual form of torture so it’s no shock that it’s a major concern. Our entire mind-body system depends on sleep to stay healthy, balanced, and functioning (sleep-deprived driving is a whole lot like drunk driving). But it can be majorly hard to get a good stretch of sleep, so what to do? We say making sleep a priority is the first step, and remember the following:
- Limit those mugs of coffee; caffeine blocks sleep
- Get fresh air; it has excellent sleep benefits
- Get sunshine during the day and fresh air
- Keep the lights dim and switch off electronic devices an hour before bed
- Let Dad take a night (bottle) feeding so you can sleep through
- If it’s noisy or you’re tossing and turning, try a different room, earplugs, or white noise
"I think I went into PPD a little bit because I was very sleep deprived...I know people say to sleep, but I felt guilty because I was like, 'I'm a new mom and I have to take care of him,’ but if I don’t take care of myself then I can’t take care of him. So for my second one, I’m going to try to sleep as much as I can. Even though I got that information, I didn’t really get it until I was going into PPD. So, try to sleep as much as you can—it really makes a difference." — Veteran Mom
Eating nutrient dense foods keeps your body in balance. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, your baby is requiring (and taking!) a lot from your body, so nourishing and replenishing it is critical. Also, try to limit sugar, which can definitely cause mood swings.
MOVE YOUR BODY
This study showed: “Physical exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period is a safe strategy to achieve better psychological well‐being and to reduce postpartum depressive symptoms.” And it doesn’t have to be heavy-duty workouts; walking around the block, stretching, yoga, or swimming—any amount of exercise—will reduce stress and help you get more quality sleep.
“You experience normal baby blues…one second I was fine, then I screaming for no reason, or breaking down sitting on my kitchen floor and crying. I’m like, this isn't normal; I think this is more than baby blues. So I went back to my midwife and said let’s try some non-prescription medication, so she prescribed more exercise, vitamin D, and fish oil.” — Veteran Mom
SEE YOUR DOC
During and after pregnancy, your body goes through major shifts and some women find out their thyroid or adrenal glands have gone off-track. According to the Mayo Clinic, postpartum thyroid issues “…can be difficult to recognize because its symptoms are often mistakenly attributed to the stress of having a newborn and postpartum mood disorders.” When in doubt, see your doctor to rule out any imbalances that can be easily treated.
Understanding Postpartum Mood Disorders (3:00)
"I think it's an area where it’s really important to have your partner or husband be informed and to have a conversation beforehand, because when you're in it you’re not going to be like, 'Oh, okay, I see I have depression so I’m going to call the doctor and get myself some help.' You need him to be there because he knows you. My husband had to step in and say, 'Okay, I think we need to look further into this.' And that also helped him to be involved.” - Veteran Mom
7. Offer to contact your doctor on your behalf.
8. Before the baby is born, make a pact that if your partner sees signs of a mood disorder (even if you don’t recognize the signs), you agree that he can contact your doctor to make an appointment for you. No fighting or resisting him, just go as a precautionary measure.
9. Attend doctor/therapist appointments.
10. Having him at doctor’s appointments or therapy (when needed) keeps him in the loop and ensures you’re feeling supported and in it together. It also helps to have a second set of ears there for important information or instructions.
11. Make sure you’re getting downtime for self-care.
12. Rest and recharging is massively important for mental and physical wellness. Whether it’s sleep, exercise, seeing friends—whatever self-care looks like for you—Dad can be responsible for baby care and help make that happen.
13. Lighten your “to-do” list so you’re not overwhelmed.
14. Whatever takes things off your plate and lowers your stress level, excellent! Feeling overwhelmed is a big part of the blues, depression, and anxiety for new moms, so let Dad help lighten your load.
“It’s powerful for dads to have the information so you can work as a team, because often you don’t know what’s going on. You can’t see your actions from the outside or how you’re acting differently.” - Veteran Mom
"I don’t think it was postpartum depression…I think it was just hard days. But my husband and I did talk about it a lot beforehand, and knowing that I had him as support made me more comfortable." - Veteran Mom
"While you’re pregnant, make a list of things that calm you down and feel good to you, so when you're in a moment where you're feeling overwhelmed or depressed, you have a list you can go to for things that make you feel better. For some people, it's a favorite song, a bath or shower, going for a walk or to the grocery store…If you have the knowledge and a plan then you can be flexible and make decisions in the moment as needed." - Veteran Mom
Rick & Kristin: Postpartum Depression (1:46)
Amanda: Postpartum Depression (:30)