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Paula Kashtan

How To Tell The Difference Between Baby Blues And Depression

When motherhood isn't everything you thought it would be, sometimes you need to speak up.

The first month or two with baby can be tough, we know. It's okay to feel overwhelmed when everything around you is suddenly changing. Being a mom is a tough job, so expect that you'll need time to adjust and not to love every minute of it.

Lots of women suffer from what's commonly called the baby blues, which can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after delivery. You may find yourself feeling low, unable to focus, lacking an appetite and having a hard time getting to sleep (even after baby's gone down). Some moms with the baby blues describe themselves as feeling isolated and emotionally fragile. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, you're not alone. This is a normal part of having a baby (though it certainly may not feel that way) and is reported by about 70 to 80 percent of new moms, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists. That doesn't mean you should minimize the rough emotions; rather, just remember that you're not abnormal and strange, and the feelings should pass.

"Classic baby blues caused by hormonal changes typically subside about 14 days after birth," says Laura Riley, MD, director of labor and delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital. If you're past the first couple weeks and still feeling anxiety, head to your doctor. You might be suffering from postpartum depression, which is a serious illness that affects an estimated 10 percent of new moms, causing profound feelings of anger or sadness for months after childbirth. A strong sense of guilt, extreme fatigue and panic attacks are other common manifestations. In some cases, the symptoms can go even darker, causing thoughts of harming baby or yourself

"The psychological component of postpartum depression varies for everybody," says Riley. So the only way to truly determine whether it's baby blues blues or postpartum depression is to speak with your doctor. And remember, many women have been in the same position, and there are effective treatments. Though asking for help can be scary, there's no reason for you to feel ashamed. In fact, reaching out to others is one of the strongest things you can do—for yourself and for baby.