Ask Nicole: Baby Blues vs Postpartum Depression

My girlfriend and I have been talking about having kids and she mentioned that in Japan all mothers suffer from postpartum depression. I was a bit taken back by this. I didn’t think that all women suffered from this. o_o Do you have any thoughts? I’m not sure if she is correct or not, but you were writing quite a bit on the subject so I thought I’d ask.

~angrygaijin

 

I am not an expert on Japan, or Japanese culture.  However, I do know that only 15% of women in the world suffer from actual Postpartum Depression.  However, 50-80% of women can experience very normal ups and downs the first couple weeks after birth (Bennett, 2009).  This is called the “Baby Blues,” and is quite different from Postpartum Depression (PPD).

The Baby Blues can seem daunting, but they are quite normal for women after childbirth.  Many experience ups and downs related to the hormonal changes going on in their body after the birth, and add-on top of that the lack of sleep, it can suck big time.  It’s perfectly normal, and sometimes expected, for women to suffer some irritability, mood swings, and overwhelmed feelings, but they typically peak after the 4th or 5th day, and end around two to three weeks postpartum (Webmd.com, 2010).  Anything after that initial two to three weeks, even mild symptoms, is then considered PPD.

PPD is a serious mental illness.  Women who suffer from PPD will often deal with  teariness, feelings of sadness, angry outbursts, as well as suicidal feelings and fears of hurting herself or the baby.   Feelings of inadequacy to care for the baby can occur as well.  It gets in the way of normal functioning, and should be treated by a medical professional (There are alternative treatments, but you should always talk to your doctor first).  Many women who suffer from PPD start seeing symptoms around the 3rd of 4th month postpartum, but it can happen sooner.  Some women even experience depression symptoms before the child is born. 

It’s very important to get treated if you suspect you are suffering from PPD.  It’s important for you, and for the baby.  If left untreated, some women (25%)  experience chronic symptoms for much longer than the “typical” year that is associated with PPD (Bennett, 2009).  I know from my own experience that this is true.  I did not seek treatment until almost two years later, and I still deal with depression from time to time, even though I am on medications.

Here is a list of symptoms of PPD:

  • Depressed mood-tearfulness, hopelessness, and feeling empty inside, with or without severe anxiety.
  • Loss of pleasure in either all or almost all of your daily activities.
  • Appetite and weight change-usually a drop in appetite and weight but sometimes the opposite.
  • Sleep problems-usually trouble with sleeping, even when your baby is sleeping.
  • Noticeable change in how you walk and talk-usually restlessness, but sometimes sluggishness.
  • Extreme fatigue or loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, with no reasonable cause.
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions.
  • Thoughts about death or suicide. Some women with PPD have fleeting, frightening thoughts of harming their babies. These thoughts tend to be fearful thoughts, rather than urges to harm (Webmd.com, 2010)

While the symptoms are all good reasons to seek medical treatment, the last one is really important.  Those fearful thoughts are what I have called dark thoughts.  They can either be thoughts about harming or even killing yourself, or your baby.  Far too many women who have suffered from PPD have either attempted suicide, or have been successful.  I never attempted to commit suicide, but I had the thoughts of wanting to, and I had thoughts of harming my daughter.  It is quite terrifying, but it’s important to remember that those thoughts are not your actual thoughts.  It is the depression talking.

It is important to remember that while the Baby Blues can be tough to deal with, it is only temporary.  PPD is very often much more severe, and can get in the way of your functioning, and can lead to suicide.  Baby Blues and PPD are different, and should be recognized as such.  If you believe you may be suffering from PPD, please seek help.  It is treatable, and you can feel like yourself again.  There are roughly 1 million other women that have suffered from it, so you are not alone.  You are worth the time and effort it will take to get better.  It wont be easy, but it is definitely worth it.

I hope this answers your question, and sheds some light on the topic for you.  I did my best.  🙂

 

References

Bennett, S. (2009, February 14). Baby blues or postpartum depression. Psychology Today. Retrieved from                                                            http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mommy-mental-health/200902/baby-blues-or-postpartum-depression

Webmd.com. (2010). Postpartum depression- symptoms. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/depression/postpartum-depression/postpartum-depression-symptoms

 

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8 thoughts on “Ask Nicole: Baby Blues vs Postpartum Depression

  1. I wish I had seen a list like this before my daughter was born. I had been told about the baby blues so was somewhat prepared for the onset of emotions that hit me on day four. What I hadn’t realised, and was unable to find for a long time afterwards, was that baby blues only lasts a couple weeks. I was well aware that what I was feeling ‘out of sorts’ but chalked it up to baby blues and just normal feelings of be overwhelmed as a new mom. My baby was three months old before I finally took an online test and it dawned on my that I had PPD. This post will help a lot of women I am sure.

    • Thank you! PPD didn’t knock me down until around the 3rd months, but I was feeling it before then. I also chalked it up as baby blues, and hormonal changes. I never even knew what PPD was until a year after kiddo was born. I just hope more women do not suffer like I did.

  2. That’s really great. And thanks for linking back to my blog!

    I didn’t know about the Baby Blues…. since there’s a bit of a language gap between my gf and I (we speak Japanese) maybe it was the Blues that she was referring to, rather than PPD.

    So if 50-80% of women suffer from this, that means that 30-50% don’t… and even perhaps that some women get through pregnancy, birth and child-rearing without the Blues or PPD, right?

    Well anyway, one thing I can understand from all this is that as her partner I need to do my best to support her (and the baby of course) though all the ups and downs. Odds are against her (or any woman) getting through with little trouble, eh? I’d better be there for her.

    Thanks for dedicating a whole post to my question! 🙂

  3. It is definitely not true that all women in Japan have PPD. In fact, it’s not even true that all women in Japan have baby blues. Because of the severe hormonal drop after childbirth, about 60 to 70% of women who’ve just had a baby have the baby blues for the first couple of weeks, but this issue resolves on its own and doesn’t require treatment. 😉

  4. I felt really good at the hospital and the first day home. Then I got scared and worried about my husband going to work. I thought it was PPD but after reading all of these I believe it is baby blues . If any one can help just let me know. Any thing will help.

    • Do you still feel that way? Do you feel angry, sad, indifferent, etc? If you are concerned you might be suffering from PPD, you should go to your doctor. It’s treatable, and you can feel better.

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