Baby Blues: Many moms experience “baby blues” between the third and fifth day following birth. It may last only an hour or a few days. Moms experiencing the baby blues may feel irritable, may cry for no reason, or may find it impossible to cheer up. Most often the cause of the baby blues is the complex hormones required to give birth suddenly drop and there is a sharp increase in hormones needed to produce milk. All postpartum moms should think of only two things: feeding baby and taking care of herself. Her partner or family should feed her nutritious food and encourage her to sleep when her baby sleeps. If the baby blues persist longer than two weeks, the mom may be experiencing postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression: Some moms will not “get over” the baby blues. They may lack energy and cry frequently. They might experience heightened anxiety or even panic attacks. They may feel anger toward their baby or obsess about their baby’s well-being. They may find it impossible to make simple decisions. Some moms have suicidal thoughts or feel like a failure as a mother. If you are concerned that you might have postpartum depression, talk to your midwife, doctor, or counselor. While it is often necessary to treat with an anti-depressant like Zoloft, some moms are able to self-treat with herbal options, exercise, change in diet, and/or counseling. If you take an anti-depressant or herbal regimen, talk to your care provider about any drug/herb interference with breastfeeding.
Locally, there is a regular postpartum support group led by a doula. It might be a great place to begin finding support and tools. I’ve heard very positive words about this group.
Julie’s Two Cents: I experienced postpartum depression. I had never experienced depression before and it caught me by surprise. My symptoms included an utter lack of confidence about my job when I returned to work, inability to make decisions, lack of energy, and awful feelings of anxiety. Around 6 months postpartum, I tried Zoloft for about two months. It seemed to help some but I was resistant to taking anti-depressants and chose to switch to herbs. My midwife gave me an herbal tea and suggested St. John’s Wort. I finished out my first year postpartum using the herbal plan. Recently, this smart first time mama–Abby–recommended a book called A Natural Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum Health. The authors of this book spend a good bit of time discussing the role nutrition might play in postpartum depression. It is pretty compelling particularly considering the nutritional strain your body is under during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. If the mom is not getting adequate nutrients, she may be robbed of her nutritional stores to grow a baby. I’m going to follow their recommendations closely next time around. Heck, this book motivated me to make some changes and I’m not pregnant or postpartum!