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Baby Blues Vs Post-Partum Depression

There are three levels of depression that can occur after giving birth – the baby blues, post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis, listed in order of frequency and severity. The baby blues are usually mild and most women can get past them on their own with a little time, love and support. However, if a woman develops post-partum depression, she’ll probably need medical help and possibly an antidepressant medication. If a woman develops post-partum psychosis, she’ll definitely need medical assistance to get through it.

Depression is common after giving birth – in fact, some medical professionals estimate that about 85% of all women experience the baby blues. However, it’s important to know the difference between these varying levels of depression so that you’ll know when to seek medical help.

The following are some of the ways in which post-partum depression and the baby blues are alike:

  • Both involve feelings of depression, although the baby blues are usually milder, and post-partum depression is more severe.
  • Feeling fatigued and experience insomnia are common symptoms between the two.
  • Feelings of irritability, agitation and crying spells are common in both cases.
  • You may find yourself feeling uninterested in activities you usually find fun.
  • Your appetite may be poor, which can lead to problems producing sufficient milk for breastfeeding.
  • You may have trouble concentrating and making decisions.
  • You may feel guilty or feel that you’re a poor mother.
  • You may be unusually worried about your baby's health.

On the other hand, post-partum depression differs from the baby blues in several significant ways:

  • Post-partum depression is more persistent, lasting at least two weeks after delivery.
  • The baby blues usually begin the week of delivery – if symptoms start later than that, you may be dealing with post-partum depression.
  • Most of every day, you feel depressed and have little interest in pleasurable activities.
  • In addition, you experience multiple symptoms, including at least four of those listed above.
  • You may find yourself unable or unwilling to care for yourself or your infant.

Those most at risk for post-partum depression include women who have previously had post-partum depression, who have had a mood disorder before becoming pregnant or who are adolescent. First time mothers are also sometimes more susceptible to post-partum depression.

However, don’t get overly caught up in trying to make a diagnosis of post-partum depression versus baby blues yourself. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, talk with your health care provider. Not only can your health care provider help you with a diagnosis, he or she can also prescribe antidepressant medications – if they’re indicated – and refer you for counseling or support groups that can help you through this difficult time. There are even some medications that are safe to use during breastfeeding.

Finally, if you have any thoughts or feelings of harming yourself or your baby, please get medical help right away, as this may be an indication of a more serious case of post-partum psychosis.

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