Postpartum Depression vs. Baby Blues: 9 Ways to Tell the Difference

dead flowersWhen you're pregnant, it's hard to imagine feeling anything but blissful when your baby arrives. However, due to hormones and other factors, many women just can't find that bliss. 

There's a big difference, however, between the baby blues and something more serious like postpartum depression and other mood disorders including postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, and postpartum PTSD that may require professional help. And it's important to know the difference.

But how can women know when they're in the midst of it if what they're feeling is "normal" or if they really need help? I spoke with Kristin B. Hodson, a psychotherapist, author, and founder of The Healing Group, to get some real-life examples of the difference between the two, with which both women and their families and friends should become familiar.

More from The Stir: Postpartum Depression Myths Debunked

The Baby Blues: You haven’t showered in three days, you have dried milk on your clothes, and you burst into tears at a moment's notice.
Postpartum Depression: You haven’t showered in a week, you don’t remember the last time you did laundry, and you are crying most of the day, every day.

The Baby Blues: You haven’t had a thought about putting makeup on in a week and you don’t care that you are wearing your pregnancy pants because your focus is on recovery and the baby.
Postpartum Depression: You're feeling so overwhelmed and out-of-control that you start focusing excessively on your outward appearance so people don’t know how bad and out of control things really are for you.

The Baby Blues: One minute you love your husband and the next you want to bite his head off.
Postpartum Depression: You are beginning to wonder why you married your husband in the first place, you are continually angry at him, and you consider throwing the vase at him.

The Baby Blues: You wonder from time to time if you are really cut out for this mothering thing.
Postpartum Depression
: You think you are not cut out for the mothering thing and start having regular fantasies about getting in your car, driving to Canada, and never returning because everyone would be better off.

The Baby Blues: You’re not initially connecting with your baby the way you thought you would.
Postpartum Depression
: You have a 1-month-old, still feel like you are not connecting, or feel angry toward the baby, avoid the baby, or feel anxious with them.

The Baby Blues: One minute you are smiling at the baby and the next you feel irritated that you have to get up to feed them the fifth time that night.
Postpartum Depression
: You're dominated by anger daily, not just waking up to feed but towards others and life's situations that you used to be able to handle.

The Baby Blues: You are reluctant to have strangers or “others” hold the baby.
Postpartum Depression
: You feel SO concerned about your baby, you don’t let anybody hold them, you check on them 10 times a night to see if they are breathing, and are concerned about going out anywhere with them.

The Baby Blues: You occasionally worry about your new little bundle’s safety (e.g., dropping them) but the thought passes quickly and you go about your day.
Postpartum Depression
: You regularly have intrusive, graphic, and/or scary thoughts about harm happening to your baby and are afraid to tell anyone. It starts heavily impacting day-to-day life, and you avoid activities to keep your baby safe.

The Baby Blues: It’s a good day because you got a shower in.
Postpartum Depression
: You can’t remember your last good day.

Have you suffered from either postpartum depression or the baby blues?



Image via Lee Forest/Flickr

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linzemae linzemae

Im due with my first in 4 weeks. Thanks for this!

Disso... Dissolutions

i had a horrible case of PPD after the birth of my daughter, i absolutely hated it, and it went undiagnosed for about 6 weeks because i was afraid to talk to my dr about it, but it started effecting me as a parent so i caved and started medications which helped ALOT. 

Melis... Melissa1508

PPD almost ended my marriage after I had my first daughter 5 years ago.  God, it was horrible.  I hated everyone (except my baby, oddly enough), everything got on my nerves...I would say terrible things that as soon as they came out of my mouth I regretted saying them.  I would have horrible, graphic images of the daycare workers dropping my daughter.  My family doesn't believe in PPD and I was completely alone until it got so bad that I had to finally go see my doctor.  I just had my second daughter 10 months ago and was, thankfully, able to recognize the signs and have been diagnosed with PPD for the second time.  This time around it is much more manageable.  Ladies, if you feel like things are out of control, PLEASE PLEASE find some help.  Don't feel ashamed, like I did, because people around you don't believe in it.  It is VERY real and there are people who understand. And if there are any guys reading this, please don't dismiss your significant other if they exhibit these symptoms...please be supportive and try to get them some help. Thanks for this article, Julie!

amazz... amazzonia

I never let anyone hold my babies, and that's not sign of ppd, that's just sign of loving your baby too much that no one is capable enough to hold your baby,especially in laws lol

nonmember avatar kellynn

I'm not sure it was PDD, but I did become severely depressed after the birth of my 3rd child when he was almost six months. He was born in Dec and I didnt get my period until Nov. I then got pregnant again in April and that ended my depression. I had a few more bad days, but that was it. She is now almost 3 months old and I already had a period I think it was even before she was 2 months old, but I was glad because my hormones were really messed up and I had a lot of dark days before I got pregnant again and changed my hormones around.

Jamie Dodge

I had PPD after the birth of my daughter. Number 5 & 8 were my big symptoms. I was displaying signs before we evern even left the hospital. My Dr. asked if I was anxious or depressed. I told her that the thoughts that were making me anxious were going to lead to dpression quickly. After placing me on a drug to help with anxiety and prescribing mandated sleep, at least 6-7hrs a night, I was feeling much more like myself in about a weeks time. However, it put a LOT of responsibility on my husband and strained our relationship as well. Also, after weaing myself off of the medication, I still had episodes. Three years later, they are far and few in between (thank goodness) but something about that pregnancy seemed to chemically change me somehow. It's a deep, dark, scary place that I NEVER want to go back to and any woman who is experiencing any of of these symptoms shoulld not hesitate to seek help! Thanks for the article!

Morgan Pickering

I had it, but thankfully only for a couple of weeks and then with the support of my husband encouraging me and telling me I am a good mother and a couple other things, It went away without needing medical advice, but it was terrible. I woke up to every little noise my baby made thinking he had stopped breathing. I was mad at everything and everyone, and I was constantly biting my poor husband's head off and feeling inadequate in the role of mom. i cried about everything, a good 3/4 of the day a few times a week. I was angry at baby and overwhelmed and almost impossible to reason with. I never want to go through that again. I am glad now that I know the difference between baby blues and ppd. Everybody said they thought it was just the baby blues, but I am pretty sure I had a small, but not too severe case of ppd.

nonmember avatar laura

i have had ppd twice. i also had depression during pregnancy caused by hormone imbalances. i would feel so alone, that i thought it would be better for my husband to find someone else to be with and i should leave because i wasn't doing him or the baby any good. i have struggled with how dark it made me feel. one thing that helped me - even when i looked at my son at 3 months and felt no connection to him and only did what i had to because i knew he needed it - was i created a mantra for those moments. "I will die for my kids, but I need to remember to LIVE for my kids." for me that reminder, and medication, helped me through something so awful that i felt like i lost myself and wasn't sure i could find myself again.

nonmember avatar CrystalMP

I had it with my first child and unfortunately I didn't know what was going on and didn't figure it out until much later (my doctor only gave a damn about her paycheck she wasn't even there to deliver my baby) now that I've had my second child it shows how much it affected my relationship with my oldest. I sincerely regret not knowing that there was something deeply wrong with me :(

widow... widowedmomoftwo

I had PPP (psychosis) with my second.  Had suicidal thoughts, never wanted to harm the baby or anyone else just on meds and finally some more was awful

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