Despite the stigmas that exist, the postpartum period isn't always filled with bliss. In what is typically thought to be the happiest time of a mother's life, many moms suffer from less than happy feelings, ranging anywhere from the standard "baby blues" to clinical depression. That's because, more often than not, this phase is filled with exhaustion, change, and lots of hormones, which can make life after baby particularly hard to adjust to. But just how do normal postpartum hormones differ from postpartum anxiety (PPA)? It's not exactly a fine line, and the differences between the two are actually pretty pronounced.
Although normal postpartum hormones are easily diagnosed at home (and more often than not, a diagnosis isn't even required,) the symptoms of PPA are often shrugged off as "normal" and left without a diagnosis.
Baby Blues are, more or less, experienced by about 70 to 80 percent of new mom out there, according to the American Pregnancy Association. A feeling of occasional sadness, mood swings, irritability, trouble sleeping and more, are, according to Mayo Clinic, totally normal. On the other hand, the symptoms of postpartum anxiety, though there may be a few commonalities, are usually more severe and last much longer than normal postpartum hormones.
If you're on the fence about whether your experience is simply normal post-baby hormones or something more serious, these signs will help clear things up.
1. Normal Hormones Won't Last Too Long
According to Postpartum Progress, normal adjustment periods can range in severity, but usually last no more than two weeks after giving birth. Postpartum Anxiety, on the other hand, can last months.
2. Normal Postpartum Hormones Can Feel Similar To Depression
Although normal postpartum hormones are more accurately described as "mild level depression" according to the American Pregnancy Association, PPA is more like severe worry that won't go away. Anxiety BC defines postpartum anxiety as a "natural and adaptive response when we feel unsafe or threatened." It can affect your body, mind, and actions with a general sense of worry or a more severe sense of feeling threatened or like something bad is going to happen to your baby or yourself.
3. Postpartum Anxiety Is Often Irrational
Unlike normal hormones, which consist of mood swings, sadness, or mild depression a few hours each day, if you're experiencing postpartum anxiety you'll likely have irrational worries that you can't dismiss, according to Parents.
4. Postpartum Anxiety Can Increase In Severity
Normal postpartum hormones will balance themselves out in time (usually a few weeks,) but when postpartum anxiety goes untreated or ignored, it can get worse. According to Anxiety BC, anxiety may build gradually to a point where you're unable to care for your family, especially since many healthcare providers miss the signs of PPA or treat it as postpartum depression.
5. Postpartum Hormones Are Often Made Worse By Our Expectations
Despite the incredible amount of change new moms go through — from pregnancy, to delivery, to life at home with baby — somehow moms still expect themselves to have it all together all the time. According to What to Expect, the first few weeks at home can be made easier if you go a little easier on yourself.
Anxiety on the other hand, is a clinically diagnosed condition that can't always be made better with a "mindset change." Instead, medical or therapeutic help will make the most impact.