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What’s the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression?

After you give birth, it’s normal to feel a bit down for the first few days. Your hormones drop, you're low on sleep and exhausted from the birth, and you’ve got this new baby to get to grips with. In fact, up to 80% of new mums experience baby blues, and up to 20% of new mums experience postpartum depression. In other words, it’s not just you.

But how are you supposed to know if it’s the baby blues or something more severe?

The first thing to consider is the timeline. Baby blues can occur any time from straight after you give birth to around two weeks later, when your hormones start to stabilise and you find yourself getting into some kind of groove with your baby. If your low mood or feelings or sadness go on for longer than that, you may be experiencing postpartum depression.

Baby blues and postpartum depression share a lot of symptoms, including feeling sad, overwhelmed, having mood swings, crying a lot, irritability, and difficulty sleeping. But with postpartum depression, you might also feel:

  • Hopeless and like you don’t find pleasure in the things you usually do
  • Detached from those around you or like you’re not bonding with your baby
  • Angry or even aggressive
  • Extreme stress or anxiety
  • Overwhelming guilt or worthlessness
  • That how you’re feeling is impacting your ability to eat, sleep, and take care of yourself and your baby

If you think you might be experiencing postpartum depression, don’t keep your feelings bottled up. Speak to your partner, friends, relatives or anyone else you trust as well as getting in touch with your midwife, health visitor, or GP. A whole range of support is available, and you don’t have to struggle through this alone. Depression is an illness like any other, and it is not your fault.

Here are some other resources that can offer you support:

  • Association of Post Natal Illness (APNI) at www.apni.org
  • Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support (PANDAS) at www.pandasfoundation.org.uk
  • MIND charity at https://www.mind.org.uk/

If you feel like you might attempt suicide or want to harm yourself or others, get urgent medical help by calling 999.