Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression

Pregnancy and childbirth are a time of immense joy for families. However, those emotional highs can come with some serious lows. Most new mothers, and some fathers, will experience some form of anxiety, sadness or restlessness following the arrival of a baby. For National Mental Health Month, we’re breaking down the signs and causes of baby blues and postpartum depression.

Baby Blues
For many new parents, the time immediately after a baby arrives can be marked by feeling anxious, sad or irritable. These feelings can last for the first few days or weeks after having their baby. This is known as the “baby blues,” and it’s more common than you may think. According to the March of Dimes, around 80% of new parents experience some form of baby blues. The condition commonly occurs around two to three days after the baby’s arrival, and it can last up to two weeks.

The baby blues are caused by changes in hormones. Following delivery, the amount of estrogen and progesterone suddenly decreases, and this can cause mood swings. Sharp drops in hormone levels also can make people feel tired and depressed. The additional challenges of caring for a new baby, including lack of sleep, and anxiety or nervousness about being a new parent can compound these feelings. Individuals with a history of depression also are more susceptible to feeling sad after pregnancy.

ways to treat the baby blues
The baby blues typically go away without treatment. However, there are steps you can take to improve your mental health. If the feelings of anxiety, panic and depression worsen or do not subside, be sure to contact your health care provider.

symptoms of baby blues

Postpartum Depression
While the baby blues usually go away within a few days, the symptoms of postpartum depression last longer and are more severe. The condition usually begins within the first month after birth, and it can interfere with a parent’s ability to bond with their newborn. According to the Office on Women’s Health, one in eight new mothers report experiencing postpartum depression during the year after childbirth. The exact cause of postpartum depression is not known. Like baby blues, it is often associated with changes in hormone levels.

Studies have shown that the partners of new mothers also can experience postpartum depression. They may feel overwhelmed, anxious or sad and have changes in their eating and sleeping patterns. Sometimes known as paternal postpartum depression, the condition often affects young fathers who have a history of depression, are experiencing relationship issues or dealing with financial problems. Similar treatments and support that is provided to mothers experiencing postpartum depression can help the other parent as well.

risk factors for depression during or after pregnancy

symptoms of postpartum depression

Sources: March of Dimes, Mayo Clinic, Office of Women’s Health

For immediate assistance with suicidal thoughts, you can call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or visit to chat.

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