What Causes the "Baby Blues?"

Q: I am a mother of a newborn but lately I have been feeling tired and out of sorts. What is causing this?

A: Mood swings are not uncommon following the birth of a child. But it is important to recognize, and get help, when things don’t get better.

Approximately 70 to 80 percent of new mothers experience some negative feelings or mood swings after the birth of their child. “Baby blues” hit forcefully within four to five days after the birth and often disappear within 14 days after delivery.

The exact cause of the “baby blues” is unknown although it is thought to be related to the hormone changes that occur during pregnancy and again after a baby is born. These hormonal changes may produce chemical changes in the brain that result in depression. Also, there are many adjustments that come with a newborn, such as sleep disturbance, disruption of “routine,” and emotions from the childbirth experience itself, that can all contribute to how a new mom feels.

Symptoms of “baby blues” include:

  • Weepiness or crying for no apparent reason
  • Impatience
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia (even when the baby is sleeping)
  • Sadness
  • Mood changes
  • Poor concentration

It is important you as a new mom have a support system, be it the partner, family or close friends. You should talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. It is also important to maintain a well-balanced diet, get sleep and exercise, like a walk outside.

Also, ask for help with meals, other children, getting into a routine and any help that allows the new mom to focus on the joy of having a new baby and not just the pressure of juggling it all.

It is important for the new mom to remember that they are not alone. If symptoms last longer than 14 days, it could be an indication of a more serious condition, such as postpartum depression. Be honest with the doctor at all follow up appointments.

By Michael Fetterolf, MD, family physician, ThedaCare Physicians-New London.