Battling the “Baby Blues”
You’re the proud mother of a new baby. You have looked forward to this happy event for months. So, why are you crying?
You could have the “baby blues”. For the first week or two after giving birth, as many as eight out of 10 new moms get the baby blues. They may feel sad or anxious, burst into tears for no apparent reason, or experience rapid mood swings. No wonder. Having a baby can be stressful, your hormone levels have just plunged, and you may be sleep-deprived.
When it’s more than just the “blues”
What if the blues last for more than a couple of weeks? Or if they begin weeks – or even months – after you give birth? You could be suffering from a more serious – but fairly common – condition called postpartum depression (PPD). At least one out of 10 new mothers suffers from this treatable mood disorder. PPD can linger, or even worsen, if you don’t get help.
If you have some of the following symptoms at any time after the birth of your child, and they’re interfering with your day-to-day activities, you could have PPD:
- Sadness or depression
- Eating less or more than usual
- Too much or too little concern for your baby
- Loss of interest in hobbies
The most serious postpartum mood disorder is called postpartum psychosis. It’s also the rarest type, affecting one or two out of 1,000 new mothers. This grave mental illness requires immediate medical treatment – and perhaps hospitalization.
Symptoms may include:
- The feeling that someone is trying to hurt you or your baby
- Believing that your newborn is evil
- Severe sleep disturbances
- Extreme mood and behavior swings, from marked agitation to almost complete inactivity
Taking care of yourself and your baby
If you have the baby blues or PPD, your doctor can help you find relief. It is also important to help yourself. Here’s how:
- Ask for help with housework and feedings.
- Spend some time alone with your partner.
- Get enough sleep. If possible, nap when your baby naps.
- Talk to your partner, family, friends or a counselor/mental health professional about your feelings
To talk to a licensed counselor, call Mercy Child Advocacy Center at 712-279-2373
Unfortunately, there is no single method or simple medical test to determine if you will have postpartum depression. However, there are screening devices and questionnaires that can be useful such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). The EPDS consists of just 10 short statements that will take less than 5 minutes to complete.
Directions: On the second or third day after your baby is born, please complete the following ten questions by circling which of the four possible responses is closest to how you have been feeling during the past week. It is best to take this test when you have a quiet moment to yourself and can answer the question honestly. Once you have completed the ten questions, self score the test using the code on the next page. Remember: base your answers only on how you have felt recently, not what others might have said about your behavior.