Maternity blues, also known as baby blues and postpartum blues, is a transient condition that 75-80% of mothers could experience shortly after childbirth with a wide variety of symptoms which may include:
- Weepiness and bursting into tears.
- Sudden mood swings
- Anxiousness and hypersensitivity to criticism.
- Low spirits and irritability.
- Poor concentration and indecisiveness.
- Feeling ‘unbonded’ with the baby.
- Restless insomnia.
Baby blues is not postpartum depression unless it is abnormally severe and might need medical attention.
The exact cause of the “baby blues” is unknown at this time. It is thought to be related to the hormone changes that occur during pregnancy and again after a baby is born.
After the placaenta is delivered, the placental “hormone factory” shuts down causing radical changes in hormone levels, and the woman can suffer symptoms due to withdrawal from the high pregnancy levels of oestrogen, progesterone and endorphins. Combined with this shift in hormone levels is the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion – as well as sleep deprivation typical of parenting a newborn. All of these factors contribute to the condition.
It can also be normal for the ovaries (having been virtually inactive for the last six months of the pregnancy) to take a number of weeks to return to producing normal pre-pregnancy hormone levels.
What can you do?
It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. In this respect there are several different ways that you can care of yourself if you are having the “baby blues.”
- Talk with someone that you trust about how you are feeling.
- Maintain a well balanced diet. Having a new baby may cause you not to eat correctly, and too many simple carbohydrates can make mood swings more pronounced.
- Keep a journal of all your thoughts and feelings.
- Get outside to enjoy fresh air and life outside the confines of diapers, feedings, and spit up. Sometimes just a different view for a few moments can make a huge difference.
- Do a 5 to 10 minutes of meditation, breathing exercises and yoga nidra, daily if you can.
- Ask for help–help with meals, other children, getting into a “routine”, or any help that allows you to focus on the joy of having a new baby and not just the pressure of juggling it all.
- Don’t expect perfection in the first few weeks. Give yourself time to heal from birth, to adjust to your new “job,” and for feeding and sleeping routines to settle in.
- Be honest with your care provider at all your follow up appointments.
Special mention on nutrition
Recent research has shown consuming blueberry extract with blueberry juice helps in managing the mood swings.
Scientists in Canada have developed a nutrition-based treatment to counteract the mood-related effects of chemical changes in the brain that occur during the postpartum period.
Blueberries have been shown to raise levels of the ‘feel good hormone,’ serotonin, which can boost mood. Other foods that can help improve mood are foods rich in vitamin D (milk, cheese, yogurt) and fatty fish (tuna, salmon, trout). Levels of vitamin D and omega-3s tend to be lower in women at the end of pregnancy. Low levels of these can affect mood.
Again, talk to your health care provider or a registered dietician if you think that you may have gaps in your nutrition.