Just home from the hospital, new mom Sara texts her girlfriend, “Okay, I burst into tears twice today and lost it with Tom over nothing! What’s up with that?” Four weeks after the birth of her son, Jane’s mood alternates between sadness and doubt and she ignores friends’ phone messages. Two women, two different experiences.

Sara is experiencing what’s often called the baby blues from her changing hormones, fatigue, recovery from birth and new role. Moms like Sara may cry easily, have trouble sleeping even though exhausted, and respond differently than usual – with tears or a short temper – to things that usually wouldn’t bother them. The good news is that this is typical and 4 out of 5 moms go through this.

If you’re like Sara, what you need to know is that this isn’t depression but rather a time of transition, and extra rest, accepting help from others and reaching out to others – even if just to vent – through chatting, email or whatever works for you, is a healthy strategy. Share your feelings and ask for support, advice and information.

But what Jane is experiencing is another story. She’s withdrawing and losing interest in others, a classic sign of developing postpartum depression (PPD) that may affect as many as 20 percent of postpartum moms. Experts want to know if you’re experiencing PPD and are ready to help. Talk to your care provider while pregnant to ask who you should call if these feelings emerge post-birth, especially if you experienced PPD with a previous pregnancy.

Experiencing depression is real – and with postpartum depression it’s a real healthcare emergency. It’s not just in your head and you may not just get over it without harming yourself or your baby. Your healthcare provider will help you get counseling, medication if needed and plug into the social networks needed for the support to successfully treat this syndrome. Don’t suffer in silence; help is there for you and your baby.

Could you have it?

Feeling moody is normal, but if you feel that you have grown withdrawn and disinterested in others you may be suffering from postpartum depression.

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you may be developing more than the baby blues. Are you or have you:

  • Recently experienced a major life stressor?
  • Losing your appetite?
  • Ignoring others in your life, like your spouse or friends?
  • Increasingly sad?
  • Lacking the pleasure from things you once enjoyed?
  • Feeling inadequate to care for your baby?
  • Feeling overwhelmed by caring for yourself or your baby?

Red flags that you should immediately see your healthcare provider include:

  • thoughts of harming yourself of your baby
  • failing to do the activities of daily living like care for yourself and others

Carolyn J. Lee, PhD, CNE, RN, is a nurse expert adviser to Healthy Mom&Baby.

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