Beyond the Baby Blues: The Dangers of Postpartum Depression

What Are the Baby Blues?
After having a baby, the mother's body is flooded with hormones designed to change her body from a pregnant state to that of a post-pregnancy state. It took nine months plus a couple weeks to get the baby ready, and it will take at least that amount of time to return to "normal" pre-pregnancy conditions. The rush of hormones has many helpful functions, but also causes emotional symptoms that may feel like severe premenstrual syndrome. Mood swings, feeling down or on edge, fatigue and a general sense of being overwhelmed can be part of the process. This wave of hormone-induced depression is known as the Baby Blues. It's normal and usually passes within a few weeks.

What Is Postpartum Depression?
If the feelings associated with the Baby Blues are more intense than normal, growing into feelings of depression, feeling unprepared for your role as a mother, feeling bitter about the baby or having a hard time keeping up with caring for your baby, you could have postpartum depression.  

What Are the Dangers of Postpartum Depression?
Many women who get postpartum depression are unwilling to see the doctor about it, figuring that it will get better over time. The difference is that the Baby Blues fade gradually, while postpartum depression becomes more severe, interfering with your ability to bond with your baby. This affects the baby's development, because bonding is crucial to an infant's emotional state. Behavioral issues with eating and sleeping, difficulty being soothed and language delays can develop.

The longer postpartum depression is left untreated, the longer it can last. In some cases, it can develop into postpartum psychosis, an emergency condition that puts you and your baby in danger. Talking to your doctor and getting early treatment are essential to return a state normalcy to you and your family.

What Else Can Help?
These suggestions can help in all postpartum recovery, including physical and emotional recovery. 

  • Get adequate rest. Sleep when the baby sleeps.
  • Get daily exercise. Walk a bit each day, wearing the baby in a sling.
  • Eat healthy, nutritious foods. Nurture yourself as you recover.
  • Set realistic expectations for your own recovery and work around the house. Let someone else do the chores, or let some things wait for a while.
  • Take time for self care. Shower and get dressed each day, even if it's later than usual.
  • Get support and companionship from friends, your partner and family. Call on and allow your support system to help you.
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