Baby blues: a psychosocial perspective

Baby blues: a psychosocial perspective

Dr. Abdul Majid, Dr. Aijaz A Suhaff and Dr. Farhana Rafiq

Motherhood is a rewarding and important aspect of being a woman. There is no experience like bringing a child into this world; an enormous task that nature has thought that only a woman is capable of performing. It brings happiness, it brings tears, but most of all it brings great responsibility to raise an individual from a small ‘bundle of joy’ to a healthy, intelligent and balanced adult.

Becoming a mother is an overwhelming experience, but not for everyone. Sometimes mothers develop psychological problems mainly due to hormonal imbalances and mood swings that cause these women to react in unexpected ways. While most women leave the hospital with a ton of joy, some leave with the baby blues that can affect them temporarily or sometimes for longer periods.

Postpartum blues, also known as postpartum blues and maternity blues, is a very common but self-limited condition that begins shortly after childbirth. Mothers may experience negative mood symptoms mixed with intense periods of joy. Up to 85% of new mothers are affected by the baby blues (although most of these symptoms are temporary), with symptoms starting a few days after delivery and lasting up to two weeks and can present with a variety of symptoms such as changes of humor, irritability and crying. Even with a planned pregnancy, it’s normal to have feelings of doubt or regret, and it takes time to adjust to having a newborn.

Risk factors for developing postpartum blues

• Fatigue after labor and delivery

• Caring for a newborn who requires care 24/7

• Sleep deprivation

• Lack of support from family and friends

• Marital or relationship strain

• Changes in home and work routines

• Financial stress

• Unrealistic expectations of oneself

• Social or cultural pressure to “bounce back” quickly after pregnancy and childbirth

• Overwhelmed and questionable ability to care for the baby

• Anger, loss, or guilt, especially for parents of premature or sick babies

• Hormonal changes (decreased levels of progesterone, estrogen and thyroid after childbirth)

• Family problems: conflicts with the couple, stressful life events during pregnancy, single-parent family or cohabitation.

• Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, as well as pregnancy at risk, can also negatively affect the emotional condition of the mother.

• Lack of understanding of the behavior of the newborn, the real, real image of motherhood as opposed to the imagined one.

The symptoms of the baby blues can vary significantly from person to person and from pregnancy to pregnancy. Many symptoms of baby blues overlap with normal symptoms experienced by new parents and with postpartum depression. People with postpartum depression have symptoms that are milder and less disruptive to their daily functioning compared to people with postpartum depression.

Symptoms of postpartum blues include, but are not limited to:

• Tears or crying “for no reason”

• Humor changes

• Irritability

• Anxiety

• Questioning one’s ability to care for the baby

• Difficulty making decisions

• Loss of appetite

• Fatigue

• Difficulty to sleep

• Difficult to focus

• Negative mood symptoms interspersed with positive symptoms

While the “baby blues” is the least serious form of postpartum depression, it’s important not to ignore the changes that are taking place in your body. Many women are confused by struggling with sadness after the joyous event of adding a new baby to the family and often don’t talk about it. But talking about these emotions, changes, and challenges is one of the best ways to cope with the “baby blues.”

How to deal with postpartum blues?

1) Give yourself time to adjust: Give yourself time and be compassionate with yourself and your partner on this journey. Try not to make any other major changes in your life that could increase your stress load.

2) Set realistic and achievable goals and don’t put pressure on yourself.

3) Remember to rest: In the midst of physical exhaustion, sleepless nights, cycles of worry, it is essential that new moms try to get some rest.

4) Give yourself some ‘me time’: Having a baby doesn’t mean we put aside other aspects of ourselves. Take time for things you used to enjoy doing. It could be a physical activity, a hobby you enjoyed, or catching up with a friend.

5) Seek help: Whenever possible, seek help in daily activities from family and friends. Share your thoughts and feelings with them.

6) It’s also about fathers: while we usually talk about perinatal mental health in the context of mothers, we also need to be aware of the fact that men can also experience distress related to their partner’s pregnancy and the arrival of the newborn born.

7) Get treatment if needed: While postpartum blues go away on its own, depression with a peripartum onset is a mental health condition that requires treatment. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional and get the help you need.

You should contact your doctor if:

• You are experiencing several of the symptoms listed above for more than two weeks.

• You have suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming your child

• Your feelings of depression are getting worse and persist beyond two weeks

• You have problems with daily tasks or taking care of your baby

New mothers need to understand and remember that taking care of themselves is part of taking care of their children.

How Partners, Family, and Friends Can Help

The strong support of the partner, family and friends is very important.

• Listen to her: Let her know you want to hear her concerns. For example, “I see you’re having trouble sleeping, even when the baby is sleeping. What’s on your mind?”

• Be supportive – Let her know she’s not alone and that you’re here to help. Try offering to help with the housework or take care of the baby while she rests or visits her friends.

• Know the signs: Learn to recognize the symptoms of depression and anxiety and, if you see signs, encourage them to see a health care provider.

• Encourage her to seek help if she needs it: She may feel uncomfortable and not want to seek help. Encourage her to talk to a health care provider.

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