Baby Blues

After the birth of a baby about half of all mothers suffer a period of mild depression called the blues.

This may last for a few hours or, at most, for a few days and then it disappears. If the blues do continue and seem to be getting worse then the mother should see her doctor and discuss the problem.

Symptoms

Many mothers feel very emotional and upset when they have the blues and they cry for no particular reason. They may find that it is impossible to cheer up. Some mothers feel very anxious and tense. Minor problems may cause mothers with the blues to worry a great deal.

Some mothers have pains for which there is no medical cause or they may feel unwell but without any particular symptoms. Most mothers who have the blues feel very tired and lethargic most of the time. Frequently mothers who have the blues have difficulty sleeping.

Causes

The blues may have several causes, some biological and some emotional.
When a baby is born there are very sudden changes in the mother's hormone levels. Some, required during pregnancy, drop rapidly, while others like those which start the production of milk, rise. These rapid changes may act to trigger the blues.

Many mothers are unprepared for the extreme weariness, which often follows a birth. The weariness is usually due to a combination of factors. In many cases the mother will have been anticipating the birth with some apprehension. This, as well as the physical exertion of the birth itself, can make mothers feel exhausted. Rest and quiet are most important after a birth. Few mothers get either, as they are busy responding to the needs of the baby, Or, when they might be able to rest, they are disturbed by hospital or home routines or by visitors who may stay too long.

Sometimes the baby may have a slight health problem such as jaundice or feeding difficulties in the early days. These problems are very common with new babies, but they cause mothers great anxiety. The problems do settle down as the baby gets older and mothers should try to talk to medical staff and allow themselves to be reassured that the baby will thrive.

Treatment

Mothers who have the blues should be allowed to cry if they want to and allowed to express their fluctuating emotions. If they feel miserable they should not be told to pull themselves together. It can be a great help to the mother if someone listens to her and reassures her that her worries and misery will not last and that she will soon feel better.

A mother who has the blues must have as much rest as possible. It may also help the mother if she is told that the blues are very common and that they will usually pass quickly.

Affected mothers are often over-sensitive about what is said to them by relatives and medical staff So tact and empathy from the staff can be very beneficial at this time.

The information shown here had been reproduced with the permission of The Associaton for Post Natal Illness. Last updated June 2007.