Baby blues after pregnancy

KEY POINTS

  • If you feel sad or moody in the first few days after having your baby, you may have the baby blues. Many new parents feel this way.

  • It is normal to feel emotional highs and lows during this time.

  • Baby blues usually go away by themselves within a week or two of giving birth. You don’t need medical treatment for baby blues.

  • Baby blues are different than postpartum depression, which is more severe and lasts longer.

  • If your sad feelings last longer than 2 weeks, tell your health care provider.

What are the baby blues?

Baby blues are feelings of sadness that you may have in the first few days after having a baby. Up to 4 in 5 new parents (80 percent) have the baby blues. It can affect new parents of any race, age, income, culture or education level. You are not to blame for how you feel. Feeling “blue” does not mean you did anything wrong.

Most people experience baby blues 2 to 3 days after the baby is born. They can last up to 2 weeks. They usually go away on their own, and you don’t need any treatment. If you have sad feelings that last longer than 2 weeks, tell your health care provider. They may want to check you for a more serious condition called postpartum depression. The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to the baby blues but they’re more severe and last longer.

What causes the baby blues?

Hormone changes that happen after birth may cause the baby blues. After delivery, the amount of the hormones estrogen and progesterone suddenly decreases, causing mood swings. For some people, the hormones made by the thyroid gland may drop sharply, which can make them feel tired and depressed. Not getting enough sleep and not eating well can add to these feelings.

Emotional issues are another possible cause of the baby blues. You may be nervous about taking care of your new baby or be worried about how your life has changed since the baby was born. These thoughts can make you feel sad or depressed.

You may be more at risk for feeling sad after having your baby if you felt depressed during a different pregnancy or at other times in your life.

What do the baby blues feel like?

If you have the baby blues, you may:

  • Feel angry, sad and cry a lot
  • Feel moody, cranky or anxious
  • Have trouble sleeping, eating or making decisions
  • Feel overwhelmed and that you can’t do a good job of taking care of your baby
  • Feel lonely or cut off from friends and family
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Not feel like eating

If you feel scared or out of control, tell your provider. If you’re worried about hurting yourself or your baby, call 911.

Can your partner have the baby blues?

Yes. Up to 10 percent of partners can have feelings of sadness or depression after the birth of a baby. It happens most often during the first 3 to 6 months after the baby is born, but can develop up to a year afterward.

If your partner has the baby blues, they may:

  • Pull away and want to be alone
  • Feel angry, moody, cranky or anxious
  • Lose interest in work or favorite hobbies, or choose to work more
  • Get frustrated or sad
  • Feel hopeless or overwhelmed
  • Have trouble sleeping or making decisions

Lack of sleep, relationship problems or stress can also cause the baby blues. Male partners also may have the baby blues because of hormone changes during and after the baby is born. Testosterone levels may drop and estrogen levels may rise in new fathers. Other hormones, such as cortisol, vasopressin and prolactin, may rise. All of these hormone changes can cause depression.

What can you do about the baby blues?

The baby blues usually go away on their own without treatment. Here are some things you can do to feel better:

  • Get as much sleep as you can.
  • Ask for help from your partner, family and friends. Tell them exactly what they can do for you, such as going food shopping or watching the baby while you shower or sleep.
  • Take time for yourself. Ask someone you trust to watch your baby so you can get out of the house. Getting some sunshine can help, too.
  • Try to connect with other new parents. A support group can be helpful. This is a group of people who have the same concerns. They meet to try to help each other.
  • Don’t drink alcohol, use street drugs or abuse prescription drugs. All of these can affect your mood and make you feel worse. And they can make it hard for you to take care of your baby.
  • Eat healthy foods and get exercise if you can. Exercise can help reduce stress.

When should you call your health care provider?

Call your provider if you have any of the symptoms of baby blues or postpartum depression, especially if your symptoms:

  • Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Don’t get better after two weeks
  • Get worse
  • Make it hard for you to take care of your baby
  • Make it hard to do everyday chores

More information

Last reviewed: May, 2021