Ask: Is it baby blues or postpartum depression?

Orenstein Solutions is family psychology practice in Cary.
Orenstein Solutions is family psychology practice in Cary.

Did you know that 15 to 20 percent of women who are postpartum experience some symptoms of depression or anxiety?  Suffering from mood symptoms during pregnancy or after delivery is always devastating because it’s always unexpected.  After all, isn’t having a child supposed to be the happiest time in a mother’s life?  This sentiment can create a lot of shame for new mothers, which often prevents them from reaching out to professionals for help. 

In addition, doctors and other supports may minimize mood symptoms and characterize them as “baby blues,” but there is a real and important distinction between baby blues and postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety.  The difference is based on the severity of symptoms, the onset, the duration, and the impact on a mother’s functioning.

While there have been great strides in recognizing PPD, you and your spouse may be the biggest advocates in getting the support you need.  Here’s what you need to know…..


1.     Approximately 50-80% of women experience baby blues. 

2.     This appears three to five days after delivery, around the same time a mother’s breast milk comes in. 

3.     Symptoms involve tearfulness, mood swings, irritability, mild anxiety and feeling overwhelmed, which resolves on its own within the first few weeks postpartum.

4.     Baby blues is related to changes in hormones and not to stress or past mental illness.

5.     Having baby blues does not make a mother more vulnerable to developing Postpartum Depression.



1.     Symptoms appear anywhere from a few weeks to up to a year postpartum.

2.     Symptoms include agitation, tearfulness, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, distraction, loss of pleasure and difficulty making decisions.

3.     Significant changes in sleep and eating, beyond what is typical for new moms.

4.     Mothers can become preoccupied with negative thoughts of harm befalling themselves or their babies.

5.     Scary thoughts are perceived as “going crazy.” This is not the case!

6.     This condition can interfere with a mom’s ability to take care of herself and her baby.

7.     PDD symptoms can interfere with healthy mother-child bonding. 

8.     If left untreated, these symptoms can lead to risk for suicide.


THERE IS HELP AVAILABLE.  Here’s what you can do. . .

Start with an Evaluation:

Get an assessment from a qualified mental health professional who can discriminate between baby blues and PPD and anxiety. The assessment also involves developing a treatment plan that includes lots of support and care for the mother to help get the entire family back on track. If you talk to a professional who minimizes your experience, and your symptoms persist, get a second opinion.  

Seek Treatment:

PPD is a highly treatable medical condition caused by changes in hormones and biochemistry in the brain.  Possible treatments include supportive individual and family counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and medication.  PPD is HIGHLY treatable, especially if caught early.  However, if left untreated, postpartum depression and anxiety can have negative effects on mother-infant attachment and, in severe cases, can result in suicide.

Know your Resources:, a psychoeducational website that lists PPD specialists in your area., website of Postpartum Support International

Gabriella Johr is a psychologist at Orenstein Solutions supporting new parents and healthy families. Contact Orenstein Solutions at 919-428-2766, ext. 0, or visit for more information.