What’s the difference between baby blues and PND (Postnatal Depression)?
Most mums will have heard the term ‘baby blues’. It’s a stage that up to 80% of mothers go through. But at what point does the baby blues period end? And at what point should mums start to question if it’s PND?
We’ve done some research into what to keep an eye out for if you start to grow concerned. We urge anyone who believes they are struggling with PND to contact a professional or to reach out to a loved one, as they are the ones who will be able to help you through this situation.
What are the baby blues?
Giving birth and welcoming a new baby into the world is supposed to be such a happy event. But in the first few days after birth many new mums feel low in mood, emotional and anxious.
Mums experiencing baby blues might experience:
feeling emotional and bursting into tears for no apparent reason
feeling irritable or touchy
anxiety and restlessness
All these symptoms are normal and usually only last for a few days. (Source: NHS)
What causes baby blues? After your body has gone through birth your hormones levels drop pretty drastically. According to NCT, your oestrogen levels actually drop more than 100 fold in the first three days after your baby is born.
That chemical decrease as well as the stress of taking your new-born baby home for the first time can be a time of experiencing your most heightened amount of emotions.
What is PND?
Postnatal Depression affects about 1 in every 10 parents, and can occur 2-8 weeks after birth or even up to a year later. Unlike the baby blues, which go away after a few days, symptoms of PND linger. If you feel down or anxious or just not like yourself and it is something that doesn’t go away then it could be PND.
Some of the symptoms of PND can include a persistent low mood, trouble sleeping, withdrawing from other people, and intrusive thoughts. These don’t necessarily occur all at once, but rather tend to develop gradually over time.
The NHS have provided a useful overview of the symptoms of PND:
Emotional signs of postnatal depression may include:
loss of interest in the baby
feelings of hopelessness
not being able to stop crying
feelings of not being able to cope
not being able to enjoy anything
memory loss or being unable to concentrate
excessive anxiety about the baby
Other signs of postnatal depression may also include:
How to tell the difference between PND and baby blues?
PND and baby blues both can leave you feeling run down, emotional, irritable or anxious.
Baby blues, however, will pass within 10 to 14 days after giving birth. As your body begins to recover and your hormone levels return back to normal you should start to feel better and your mood should begin to return back to normal.
PND, on the other hand, doesn’t have a set time period and you don’t necessarily “just get over it”. It can last for months, and can become a long-term problem if left untreated. It’s a myth that PND is only hormonal based. It has a lot of different contributors. PND can also affect 1 in 10 fathers, which indicates fairly clearly that it’s not just a hormonal-based illness.
If you feel persistently low, irritable, struggle to sleep and yet have a lack of energy, and have other symptoms listed here, then you should consider seeking out help.
Where to seek help
PND and baby blues both are difficult to go through. They can be scary to experience at times, and the rose-coloured glasses we wore when approaching parenthood can start to slip when we experience them. For all the love and care we hold for our children, baby blues and PND are unfortunately something out of our control.
However, one of the best things you can do to help pull yourself through it is to reach out and talk about it with your support system (your family, friends, or midwife). The best first step is to start a conversation about it. And to seek help and support.
We have a PND Support page with useful resources for you to look through including charities like PANDAS and APNI, and we strongly recommend you to contact your GP and tell them about how you are feeling. If you start to experience suicidal thoughts, or have frightening thoughts about hurting your baby, then contact 111. And if you think that there’s a danger of you putting yourself or a loved one in danger, contact 999 immediately.
Remember: you don’t need to suffer alone through this. There are people, charities, and loved ones who are willing to listen and help. There is a way out. And you will get better.
Stay safe, and please reach out.
Disclaimer: We have researched and included robust sources to provide information in this article. However, we are not health or medical professionals and you should always seek medical advice if you are worried about you, your partner’s or your baby’s health.
What does a mum with PND look like? It might not be the one you expect. She might be the mum you meet at a toddler group who looked like she’s got it all together. Or the mum you passed on the street who smiled and looked so happy.
The truth is you might never know how another mum is REALLY feeling. So be kind! Always.
1. The mother with the biggest smile in the room
When you think of someone who has depression you expect them to look sad or down. But a mum with PND might have the brightest smile in the room. Why? Because she might be putting on a mask. And making a really big effort to hide her true feelings.
2. The one who looks like they’ve got it all together
A mum with PND might look like someone who has got the hang of this parenting gig and appears to do it with ease. She might post photos to social media where she and her baby look so happy and content. You might even see those pics and feel a little envious of how easily she seems to have slotted into her new role as a mama.
Remember that social media never tells the whole story. The mum you think is bossing it might really be struggling behind closed doors. She might also be doing both!
3. The one who is chatty and engaged when you meet them
You might expect a mum with PND is withdrawn and disengaged. But she might be friendly and chatty when you meet her. The truth is it might have taken a lot of strength and energy for her to get out and be with others. And she might be putting in her all to chat and engage to find support but to also hide her PND – especially with those she’s just met.
4. The one who looks amazing
You met a mum who looked amazing. Dressed immaculately, her smile enhanced by a slick of lippy. Hair looking fab. You cannot always tell who has depression by her outward appearance. She might have put her best look on to raise her confidence before leaving the house.
6. The mum who is surrounded by family and friends
You might know or meet a mum who has family nearby who are super supportive and who has loads of amazing friends. And think that they must be so happy and well.
It can certainly help, but even being surrounded by an army of caring people that love you is sometimes no shield for PND.
Those suffering might be surrounded by a load of people who care but still feel isolated and alone.
7. The mother you LEAST expect to have PND
The truth is that you might not know who is struggling with their mental health. Unless they tell you.
Sometimes those suffering choose not to tell many people about their struggles.
PND – Behind The Mask
There is still too much stigma and too many myths surrounding PND. Many mums might feel a misplaced feeling of shame or a fear of judgement if they admit they are suffering.
They might feel alone and lonely.
They might not know how to ask for help. Or just not have the energy to reach out.
Support for PND
Sometimes the hardest and bravest step when you have PND is asking for help. When you take that step you are one step closer to recovery. And PND is 100% recoverable.
Last week I asked the lovely mums in my Facebook group “What do you wish more people understood about PND?” I was surprised at how many responses I got, and wanted to share them. From mums who want to help bust the myths of postnatal depression and to end the stigma.
Why it’s so important for mums to speak out to bust PND myths
I want to share what mums had to say so that any other new mums struggling out there can take strength and courage from their words. So that any family or friend supporting someone with PND can understand them more fully. Because both the sufferer, and those caring around them need to understand what PND is. Without the sufferer realising what they are fighting they often won’t get help. And without those around them understanding as best they can, the sufferer may feel judged or uncared for.
Below are the responses I received. Some are quite similar, but I wanted to share different mums’ ways of putting it with the hope that it would resonate with many mums struggling currently.
“What do you wish more people understood about PND to bust the myths?”
Here are some of the myths about postnatal depression mums want people to know and the reality they want more to understand:
What PND looks and feels like:
It presents itself differently in people, and you can experience it more than once.
I wish that I understood I had it earlier.
I wish I knew I was not alone and that PND is so common
Just because it looks like you are coping and you keep telling everyone you are fine doesn’t mean you are.
For some of us its more about anxiety as opposed to feeling down.
Mine was stress and just feeling down rather than anything more sinister, but it’s still very isolating, especially when there seem to be no support groups you can just drop in to. That was all I needed really, plus practical help. Drugs and CBT were on offer but were completely not what I needed! And I wasn’t asked what I would’ve found helpful.
It’s not just feelings of sadness….it can be feelings of anger/sadness too. And present in many different symptoms. Oh and it’s not just straight after your baby is born, it can come on later.
It doesn’t only happen immediately after baby is born and sometimes can build up over a few months.
There is hope and recovery from PND but anti depressants shouldn’t be the first port of call for doctors. I know for me mine was caused by chronic insomnia not just sleepless nights with a new baby. I physically couldn’t sleep at any time even for 30 mins over a period of 18 weeks.
The myths surrounding PND that we need to bust:
That it’s an illness that isn’t your fault. And that needing meds isn’t a negative thing.
I wish more people understood the difference between ‘baby blues’ and PND and weren’t so quick to dismiss feelings of PND as ‘normal’.
That it’s an illness not a weakness.
That it’s a real illness and that we aren’t making it up because we are too tired.
That you can still appear to be functioning normally and looking after your baby well.
However under the surface things are not OK- and you are not making it up.
That getting more sleep is a quick fix – it goes deeper than that.
It’s OK to have PND. It’s not a disease, it’s not catching, and it’s OK, in fact more than OK to talk about it. Don’t be embarrassed, just talk. It really, really helps.