Giving birth is no walk in the park, and the physical recovery alone can be a painful and sometimes long process. But many women find themselves even more unprepared for the emotional upheaval of recovery, wondering whether their experience is normal "baby blues" or if they might actually have postpartum depression. So, how long do the baby blues last, and when do you know it's a larger problem?
Sarah Winward, founder of Your Downtown Doula in Toronto, tells Romper that after women give birth, there is a huge shift in hormones as estrogen and progesterone decrease rapidly and prolactin increases for breastfeeding. In an exclusive interview, Winward says, "the sudden shift in hormones, compounded by the intensity of birth and the challenges of new motherhood often results in low mood, tearfulness, and sadness. It usually begins within a couple of days after birth and lasts up to two weeks."
If you're experiencing such a phenomenon, you're certainly not alone. In fact, you're in the majority of women. Rebecca Agi, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in Los Angeles, tells Romper that between 50 to 80 percent of postpartum women experience the two weeks of emotional distress that has come to be known as the baby blues. In addition to feelings of sadness, Agi adds that many women suffer from anxiety, irritability, and a sense of confusion.
While 10 to 14 days of the baby blues are perfectly normal, it's important to distinguish between that and a case of postpartum, or perinatal, depression. In an exclusive interview with Romper, Kimberly Hershenson, a New York City based therapist specializing in motherhood issues, says symptoms of perinatal depression are similar to the baby blues, but are much more intense and longer lasting. Hershenson implores mothers who feel the urge to harm themselves or their babies, or who experience other symptoms for more than two weeks, to contact their healthcare provider immediately.
Because of all the changes a new mother undergoes, both internal and external, experiencing a bout of baby blues is a perfectly healthy process. It's important to talk about how you're feeling to your spouse, family members, or close friends, and to exercise a little self care and cut yourself some major slack. But if symptoms last more than 14 days, or if the feelings are unbearably intense, the next appropriate step in caring for yourself and your baby is to get help.