Puerperal Psychosis & related illnesses

Baby blues

Background

Baby blues is a a temporary "depression" that occurs after your baby has been born. It happens to most mums, for most of their children, starting when the baby is about three or four days old. It can last for a week, and sometimes up to 10 days.

The baby blues is not post natal depression - it passes away. If you're reading more than two weeks after it started, you should consider seeing your GP - just to make sure.

Common symptoms

Mood swings and a little depression. Most women suffer these symptoms and often worry that what they're experiencing is much more severe. Mums get tearful, find they can't sleep, they can't eat properly and they find it difficult to concentrate.

What causes it?

Giving birth!

When you're under stress, your brain releases a hormone call CRH (corticotropin releasing hormone), which triggers a chain of events that cause the level of cortisol (the "anti-stress hormone") to rise. Cortisol raises your blood sugar and maintains your blood pressure, essentially keeping you on your feet when you're stressed.

Thus the level of cortisol in your blood is related to the amount of CRH that's released from your brain.

In pregnant women, though, CRH is released from the placenta and the levels of CRH rise to about three times the usual level. This is normal, and may actually be stimulated by the baby. However, because the placenta's released CRH, the brain decides it doesn't have to so when you give birth, you're brain is actually caught kind of unawares. It's unable to produce the anti-stress hormone, which means you're less able to cope with stressful situations, like a crying baby.

In most cases, the brain simply gets its act together, starts making CRH again and you start to feel fine.

This information is adapted from © DISCOVER, December, 1995

Treatment

There is none - having the baby blues is completely normal and it will pass. It's actually considered normal to have them, so there's nothing to be ashamed about being tearful for several days in the very early motherhood.

Helping someone with the baby blues

If you're not a first time dad - do what you did last time, because it probably worked. If you are, the first thing to say is not to panic, as the condition is extremely common.

Literally your role is one of support. If your partner is finding it difficult to cope - help her out, but do not take over. Taking over, even if meant to help, can make her feel worse!

Keep an eye on it - you should see a vast improvement over a number of days and she'll thank you if you were there for her. If you're genuinely worried, speak to your partner's midwife, health visitor or GP and they'll steer you in the right direction.