Dr. Ducharme’s Blog Postpartum Depression vs Baby Blues August 13, 2018

August 13, 2018

You have a baby...you are thrilled...you bond immediately. Well, not always. Some women suddenly find themselves feeling sad, uninterested in their newborn, and confused by these feelings. Serena Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam tennis champion has been very open about her struggles with postpartum depression.

The “baby blues” is a term used to describe the feelings of worry, unhappiness, and fatigue that many women experience after having a baby. Babies require a lot of care, so it’s normal for mothers to be worried about, or tired from, providing that care. Baby blues, which affects up to 80 percent of mothers, includes feelings that are somewhat mild, last a week or two, and go away on their own.

About 15% of women experience a more serious condition known as Postpartum Depression.    

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a complex mix of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that happen in a woman after giving birth. It begins within 1- 4 weeks after delivery. The diagnosis of postpartum depression is based not only on the length of time between delivery and onset, but also on the severity of the depression.

Why does it happen? There are a number of factors but clearly hormone changes are the major issue. The levels of estrogen and progesterone, the female reproductive hormones, increase tenfold during pregnancy. Then, they drop sharply after delivery. By three days after a woman gives birth, the levels of these hormones drop back to what they were before she got pregnant.

In addition to these chemical changes, social and psychological changes associated with having a baby create an increased risk of depression.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms can include:

          Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed

          Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason

          Worrying or feeling overly anxious

          Feeling moody, irritable, or restless

          Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep

          Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

          Experiencing anger or rage

          Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable

          Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain

          Eating too little or too much

          Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family

          Having trouble or forming an emotional attachment with her baby

          Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby

          Thinking about harming herself or her baby

          About 1 in 1000 women have a psychotic episode

A number of factors can increase the risk of postpartum depression, including:

          a history of depression during pregnancy

          age at time of pregnancy -- the younger you are, the higher the risk

          ambivalence about the pregnancy

          children -- the more you have, the more likely you are to be depressed in a       subsequent pregnancy

          having a history of depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

          limited social support

          living alone

          marital conflict


Here are some tips that can help you cope with bringing home a newborn:

Ask for help -

Be realistic about your expectations for yourself and baby.

Exercise; take a walk and get out of the house for a break.

Expect some good days and some bad days.

Follow a sensible diet; avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Foster the relationship with your partner -- make time for each other.

Keep in touch with family and friends -- do not isolate yourself.

Limit visitors when you first go home.

Screen phone calls.

Sleep or rest when your baby sleeps!


Untreated postpartum depression can be dangerous for new moms and their children. A new mom should seek professional help when:

symptoms persist beyond two weeks.

she is unable to function normally.

she can't cope with everyday situations.

she has thoughts of harming herself or her baby.

she is feeling extremely anxious, scared, and panicked most of the day.


It is really important to understand that you are not alone and that postpartum depression can be treated. Pediatricians are often trained to screen and recognize signs of baby blues and postpartum depression in new moms. Many times treatment involves talk therapy. But sometimes, medication may be required. Obstetricians and psychiatrists are trained in what medications are safe even for nursing mothers. Treatment allows new moms to feel better and focus on developing a great bond with their new baby.