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The Baby Blues

In discussion with the Sick Kids

Staff After having a baby is supposed to be one of the happiest times of your life, and yet you may feel miserable, irritable, indecisive, anxious, and prone to sudden mood swings. You are not alone. In fact, about 80% of women feel this way. Symptoms of the baby blues tend to peak on the fifth day after childbirth, and gradually decrease from there. Full recovery usually occurs within two weeks.

Q What causes someone to be sad after giving birth?

Sometimes sadness and mood swings after childbirth are due to hormone levels, which drop rapidly after childbirth. However, there are a number of other reasons why you might feel “blue”, overwhelmed by your new responsibilities and exhausted by the demands of your new baby and your lack of sleep, Perhaps your birthing experience wasn’t what you had planned for or your child is not as cute or responsive as you expected.

Q How can you manage the blues?

To help yourself rest as much as you can by taking short naps during the day when your baby sleeps. Accept help from others when they offer and don’t worry about things that can wait, such as housework. Eat a proper diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and try to establish a gentle exercise program with lots of outdoor walks with your baby. If your feelings last for more than a couple of weeks or seem overwhelming, seek advice from your health-care provider or a counsellor.

Q What is postpartum depression?

A diagnosis of postpartum depression can be made if the symptoms are present every day for more than two weeks, some women may experience a depression that is so pronounced and continuous that it disrupts their normal ability to function. This is referred to postpartum depression, and it affects up to 28% of women in the time after they have given birth. New fathers can also experience depression after the birth of a baby. Postpartum depression can arise within a few days or weeks of childbirth, or it may first appear after several months. Symptoms to watch for include, uncontrolled tearfulness, feeling out of control and worthless, forgetfulness and sleep disturbances.

Q What are the causes?

Hormonal, genetic, psychological, and social factors can all play a role. Some new mothers find it especially challenging to give up their freedom or possibly a career for the responsibilities of caring for their newborn baby. They may feel angry and resentful. These feelings may be even more overwhelming if the woman’s partner has left the relationship, leaving her to care for her baby.

Treatment of postpartum depression

If you experience symptoms with or without anxiety, see your doctor right away. There are several approaches to the treatment including medication, psychotherapy, and education of the rest of the family. If you decide to see a counsellor about your postpartum depression, the counsellor may wish to see both you and your partner. The counsellor may make arrangements to give you a break from caring for your newborn baby and your other children. Nursing routines can be discussed, as well as tips on how your partner can help with feedings at night. Support from your partner and other family members is essential to your recovery.

Source: About Kids Health, Sick Kids Staff

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