A sad tune many new moms sing
You haven’t had a good night’s sleep since you brought your baby home from the hospital. Your new bundle of joy is always crying, and you can’t remember the last time you had a shower or a normal meal. On top of all the chaos, you feel terrible: You’re stressed, sad and you cry over just about anything – and sometimes nothing at all. What you’re experiencing is called the “baby blues,” a cute name for an unpleasant experience that affects 70 to 80 percent of new moms. It seems wrong to feel down during what you think should be the best time of your life – but it’s completely normal.
“Being a new parent is a difficult experience for anyone,” said Stephen Goykovich, D.O., Geisinger Jersey Shore Medical Associates. “New moms have the added challenge of dealing with fluctuating hormones that create mood swings, anxiety and depression.”
HOROMONES TAKE A
The placenta is sometimes referred to as a “hormone factory.” While you’re pregnant it supplies all of the hormones you and your developing baby need to stay healthy and strong, including high levels of progesterone, estrogen and endorphins.
“Once you deliver the placenta as part of the baby’s birth, the levels of these hormones drop significantly,” said Dr. Goykovich. “This abrupt change is partially what gives rise to mood changes in the weeks after giving birth.”
At the same time, your ovaries are in recovery mode after birth and it may take them some time to return to their normal pre-pregnancy state. Until then, you’ll have lower levels of the hormones they normally produce flowing through your body.
As a result, you may experience symptoms of the baby blues, which include:
r Weepiness and crying
r Sudden mood swings
r Anxiousness and sensitivity to criticism
r Depression and irritability
r The inability to concentrate and make decisions
r Difficulty feeling bonded with your baby
r Trouble sleeping
“Typically, these symptoms will last for roughly two weeks after giving birth,” said Dr. Goykovich. “The symptoms are usually mild and will get increasingly better as time passes.”
The baby blues and postpartum depression are different – both in the duration of the symptoms and their intensity. Postpartum depression affects 10 to 20 percent of new mothers. It usually emerges in the two or three months after giving birth and lasts longer than the two weeks typical of the baby blues.
“If you continue to feel the symptoms of the baby blues for much longer than two weeks, it’s time to talk to your doctor,” said Dr. Goykovich. “You should also reach out for help if your symptoms become worse or interfere with your daily life.”
Women suffering with postpartum depression will experience similar symptoms as the baby blues, but they’ll be much more severe. They may also feel hopeless and have thoughts of harming themselves or their babies – which is a clear sign that they need immediate help from a doctor.
“The most important thing you can do if you’re experiencing the baby blues or symptoms of postpartum depression is to talk to someone,” said Dr. Goykovich. “Start with your spouse or your doctor, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.”
Stephen Goykovich, D.O., is a Geisinger primary care physician at the Avis Medical Center. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Goykovich or another primary care physician, please call 570-753-8620.