Baby Blues vs PPD: What’s the Difference?

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With all the excitement that early parenthood brings, it's easy to lose track of your own emotions.

How long have those mood swings you're experiencing been going on? Is it normal to feel hollow in the moments you catch your breath? Is it okay to feel frustrated when your partner is just trying to help?

Between the fatigue, sleep deprivation, and new pressure, such incoherence is understandable. For many, these lows disappear once things have settled down a bit; their emotional fluctuation is often referred to "baby blues."

But for others, the sadness remains even after things have quieted down. These women may be experiencing postpartum depression (PPD).

If you think you're experiencing either – but not sure which one – read on for how to tell the difference between baby blues vs PPD.

1. Symptom severity: Baby blues are generally mild – while PPD has more severe symptoms that impair functionality

The intensity of symptoms is often the best differential between baby blues and postpartum depression. Here's what to look out for to watch for both:

Symptoms of baby blues

Symptoms of baby blues are relatively mild, and may include:

It is important to remember that the baby blues are not considered a mild form of depression.

Symptoms of postpartum depression

PPD has more severe symptoms, significantly impairing the new moms’ functionality. Women with postpartum depression present with:

2. Duration: Postpartum depression lasts a minimum of two weeks, while baby blues subside within two weeks

Recovery time depends on a number of factors, ranging from personal history of depression to severity of symptoms and what type of support you have at home

How long baby blues last

How long postpartum depression lasts

3. Prevalence: Baby blues is 6x more common than postpartum depression

Causes of postpartum depression

Research shows postpartum depression may stem from a combination of factors, including:

Causes of baby blues

Baby blues are thought to be largely hormonal. Causes may be:  

5. Treatment: Talk therapy is effective for both PPD and baby blues; medication may be prescribed for postpartum depression

Treatment for baby blues and postpartum depression

In addition, women with higher risk postpartum depression may also benefit from seeing a psychiatrist for medication (often an antidepressant).

Therapy for baby blues and postpartum depression

Find therapists for baby blues and postpartum depression

Your mental health during pregnancy (the prenatal period), and after giving birth is incredibly important.

While many therapists are excited to support new mothers, it's important to find a provider who has advanced training in perinatal issues, so that you're appropriately screened for all relevant mental health issues, are provided the best evidence-based treatments, and can be recommended the necessary local supports as needed, including new mom groups, psychiatrists, and intensive programs.

In addition to the therapist’s expertise, look for a therapist you feel comfortable opening up to, and whom you fully trust.

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