Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression vs. Postpartum Psychosis

Apr 11, 2023
Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression vs. Postpartum Psychosis
Having a baby is one of the most profound transformative events in life. But along with the joy can come sadness and other concerning symptoms. Read on to learn about three postpartum conditions and how they’re treated.

Having a baby is a much-anticipated and joyous occasion, but it’s also a significant life shift. The stakes feel high, and babies don’t come with instruction manuals.

Like many life changes, having a baby is both happy and anxiety-producing. Postpartum depression is common, but how do you differentiate it from the “baby blues” and postpartum psychosis — a serious mental health emergency?

Dr. Amy Carnall and Christina Sertway provide care for adults making life transitions, and becoming a mother is one of the most complex transitions in life. 

Unfortunately, it’s still somewhat of a taboo to be vocal about the struggles of early motherhood. If you find yourself concerned about your postpartum mental health, or if a loved one is worried, our Clarity Psychiatric Care team can treat you with clinical expertise and compassion.

The profound nature of having a baby

When you have a baby, you forever change physically and emotionally. Your life has a new center: the baby. Along with the joy comes stress, exhaustion, and sadness. 

Emotional ups and downs — feeling intense happiness, fear, resentment, or despair are actually quite universal. 

“Baby blues,” postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis: What’s the difference?

When we talk about these three conditions, it’s essential to not use the terms interchangeably.

“Baby blues” 

About half to 85% of new moms experience sadness and tearfulness immediately after their baby’s birth. The diverse symptoms also include irritability, questioning your ability to properly care for your child, exhaustion, problems eating, and difficulties focusing. 

The extreme hormonal shifts that occur right after giving birth, the very real effects of sleep deprivation, an extreme change of routine, and a complete reordering of your identity are all thought to contribute to this condition. 

Typically “baby blues” symptoms abate after a few days to a couple of weeks following birth. 

Postpartum Depression

Two significant factors that set postpartum depression apart from “baby blues” is that its symptoms are stronger, and they don’t abate after about two weeks. You may feel like sleeping all the time, cry persistently, or withdraw from family and friends. New moms can also experience suicidal ideations or thoughts of hurting their baby, obsessive thoughts, and feeling like they want to run away. 

A decreased appetite is also a symptom of postpartum depression, as are feelings like you’re failing as a mom or experiencing problems bonding with your baby.

It’s essential to seek treatment if you have these symptoms. Individual therapy and medication can successfully address postpartum depression symptoms. It may also help to engage in group therapy with other new moms, which can feel validating and let you know you’re not alone. 

If you are thinking of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988, so you can immediately speak with a trained counselor. 

Seeking care at Clarity Psychiatric Care means your symptoms will be treated using the most advanced approaches, including:

  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you understand and adjust negative responses and replace them with healthier ones.
  2. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is an approach that helps you better understand, process, and deal with intense emotions. 
  3. Person-centered therapy helps you take an active role in your treatment and healing.

Medication can also help treat your postpartum depression.

Postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a rare but serious mental health condition. Women with postpartum psychosis are at high risk of harming themselves or their babies. 

Postpartum psychosis symptoms include hallucinations (when things are happening that seem real but aren’t) and delusions (a belief you cannot shake even though it isn’t true). An example of a delusion is feeling paranoid that people are conspiring against you or trying to hurt you when they aren’t. 

You may also experience a significant increase in energy and activity (mania) or a drastic decrease (hypomania). Insomnia or feeling extremely unsettled or as if you’re having an out-of-body experience is also common. 

There are three subtypes of postpartum psychosis, and you’re at higher risk if you have a personal or family history of mental health conditions, if you’ve had your first child, or you live with certain health conditions. 

With postpartum psychosis, your sense of reality is altered. Treatments for postpartum psychosis include inpatient treatment, medications, or electroconvulsive therapy — a safe treatment given after the patient receives general anesthesia. 

If you’re a new mom and concerned about any of these conditions or planning on becoming pregnant, call Clarity Psychiatric Care at 856-428-1260 to schedule an appointment or book one online