My wife and I had our second baby last week. Our oldest is currently four years old.
My wife has been complaining of constantly feeling agitated and moody (not down and depressed, not crying) and she comes off as, well, "off", beyond normal postpartum fatigue and adjustment. She is incredibly snappy with our oldest child and with me and just doesn't seem right.
I read that this can also be a sign of postpartum depression, but because it's so fresh, it could be the baby blues as well. But then, baby blues are usually described as crying bouts, not agitation/aggression.
Could you tell me what the key differences between postpartum depression and the baby blues are please? Which one do you think she has?
Most new moms have the baby blues to some extent. It's basically a mini depression that lasts for up to two weeks, with signs being things like crying, fatigue, trouble concentrating and some new mom anxiety. This can be explained away by sleep deprivation and postpartum hormones, along with just getting used to the new baby.
The signs of postpartum depression are more serious. They include not being able to enjoy activities one previously enjoyed, a depressed mood, including in some cases agitation and anger, feeling guilty and worthless, and not having any energy at all.
I think it's possible to be diagnosed with postpartum depression before two weeks are up, so in the period during which the baby blues are common, if the person meets the diagnostic criteria.
First of all, I would say that the key difference between postpartum depression and the baby blues is that the baby blues clear up all by themselves without any treatment whatsoever, whereas postpartum depression does not.
The two certainly share some similarities, but postpartum depression is much more severe and long lasting.
Most women are diagnosed with postpartum depression only once their babies are around four or five months old. I think a week postpartum is too early to tell, yet, but it's not too early to make sure you take as much weight off your wife's back as you can. At this stage, it might be helpful if a friend or relative could come over to watch your older child, to cook and clean, and to just give your wife some space.
Hello, and I'm sorry to hear that your wife is having a hard time at the moment. I've got two kids myself and I remember that adjusting to the second child was so much harder than adjusting to the first child. I was not expecting that. I thought, because I was already an experienced mother, things would be easier. The reason they weren't is because I didn't count on my then toddler having so much trouble getting used to her little brother. Because I was either wearing my younger baby or pushing a stroller, I couldn't even pick her up to comfort her. There was jealousy around nursing as well.
I definitely lost my cool with her a few times, especially when she pulled on my clothes to get my attention and I was afraid I'd drop the baby.
I didn't have postpartum depression. It was, however, an ongoing process. I picked up some books about helping older kids adjust to having a younger sibling, and that really helped. As soon as my toddler got used to things, so did I.
That doesn't mean it's the same for your wife, of course. Have you talked to her about this in depth?
Somebody has already listed the key signs of postpartum depression. Here they are again, in case it helps:
Feeling sad, empty, helpless, hopeless, or guilty for much of the day, nearly every single day.
A lack of interest in activities and things that were meaningful to the person before - emotional numbing, in other words, again: nothing being able to get you excited.
Lack of appetite, or binge eating.
When you talk about depression, most people imagine someone who cries or feels very sad. Depression can indeed come out through aggression and anger rather than those more stereotypical things, though.
Can you take some time off work if you haven't already, and be there to support your wife?
Yeah, I was gonna say, have you asked her? Straight up, "hey hun, are you alright? I've noticed you're a bit off, and I was wondering if you think you maybe have postnatal depression or something? 'Cause you know, if you do, that's pretty common and there's treatment for that, so we'll get through it." Don't sound accusing or anything, 'cause your wife will go on the defensive, but make it clear you're there to go through what she's going through together and to help her get professional help too if that's what it's gonna take. Whatever she says, you'll get some good insights into whatever's going on in her head and then you will be able to tell yourself whether you think she needs a doctor or just extra support or help figuring some issues that are bothering her out.
Hi new dad,
As someone who's had postpartum depression, I would strongly urge you to take what you're noticing in your wife very seriously. Too many people will write ambiguous or sad feelings in the first couple weeks off as nothing more than a case of the baby blues, and it's entirely possible that that is what she has. I'd ask her if she feels happy in general, if she's bonding with the baby well, and just to describe what she's feeling. Ask her how she feels different now compared to the first time she gave birth. If her answers scare you, call her doctor.
- With postpartum depression, women tend to socially isolate themselves. Their partners may feel they are not connecting any more, and they may not be able to bond well with their babies for the moment.
- Even if things are objectively going well, they may feel they are a bad mother or their life is not going well. They are anxious about everything.
- Then, there are the serious suicidal or infanticidal thoughts, which not everyone with postpartum depression gets, but it is a risk.
The baby blues are much less serious. You're talking about bouts of feeling low and overwhelmed, which is, I think, caused by physical things like not getting any sleep and still feeling sore.
I'm sure I had the baby blues. Everything was going so well, but I was crying, wondering what to do with this also crying baby, and worried about my abilities as a mother and about my baby's future! It was maybe a few hours a day I felt like that, from the third day, after I came home from hospital, to maybe just over a week. It was confusing but I looked it up and the baby blues fit me to a T. Just as soon as it arrived, it was gone again as well. People who have postpartum depression talk about it affecting their whole life, their whole day. This was nothing like that.