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What causes baby blues?

It’s time we started talking about baby blues, a phenomenon that affects up to 80% of new mums.

The time leading up to giving birth is a busy and emotional one. You could be feeling excited at the prospect of meeting your little one; or exhausted and desperate for the birth to be over with! Either way, it’s an intense time with a lot of different hormones at play.

Then there’s the birth itself, which will leave you feeling physically drained and perhaps a little emotionally vulnerable.

What are baby blues?

Once the initial adrenaline-induced ‘high’ of delivering your baby levels out and the influx of hospital visitors passes, your mood could dampen. This often happens between 3-10 days after giving birth and it’s actually very common. In fact, according to the Royal Women’s Hospital up to 80% of new mothers will experience baby blues.

Common signs and symptoms of baby blues

For many, the reality of parenthood only sets in properly once they’re away from the guiding hands and support of the nurses or midwives. Following the birth, it’s perfectly normal to be feeling any or all of these:

  • anxious
  • teary
  • irritable
  • sensitive

What causes baby blues?

It isn’t really known what causes the baby blues, but it is thought the rapid changes in hormone levels after the birth could contribute.. Some women have been through a difficult birth, others may have trouble breastfeeding, and almost all parents are adjusting to a huge change. It’s a lot to process, so it’s understandable if you feel overwhelmed or anxious when a new baby arrives.

Treatment for baby blues

If it’s just baby blues that you’re experiencing, you will probably only need a little more love and patience from those around you. And if well-meaning friends or family offer advice, you shouldn’t feel pressure to follow it; remember to do what feels right for you.

Is it something more serious?

If, after two weeks, you’re not feeling any better, this could mean there’s something more serious going on, like postnatal depression. At least 1 in 7 new mums will experience this condition, so you’re far from alone if you’re one of them.

Some of the signs of postnatal depression include:

  • severe anxiety or full-blown panic attacks
  • withdrawal from friends, family and social activities
  • persistent worry – often over the health of your baby
  • difficulty concentrating
  • suicidal thoughts, or thoughts of harming your baby.

If you or your baby are at immediate risk of harm then you should call Lifeline or 000.  If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, the first stop should be a visit to your GP. Once there, beyondblue encourages you to answer the questions on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. This will give both you and your GP a better idea of where you’re at emotionally and the level of treatment you might need.

The most important thing to remember is that as scary as the symptoms might feel, postnatal depression is temporary and can be treated.

How can your partner help with the baby blues?

As a starting point, get your partner to read this article. And here are some other things they can do:

  • help with the housework (which they should already be doing!) to give you some rest time
  • pay close attention for any signs that you might be struggling emotionally and encourage you to talk about your feelings
  • take care of the baby to promote their own parent-child bond while also giving you a break.

The good news is that in the majority of cases, baby blues only last a few days. So you should be back to feeling normal (if a little sleep deprived) and in love with your baby in no time. And if it is something more serious, there is plenty of support out there to help you through.

Where to go for help

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