Baby Blues vs. PPD: What's the Difference?

Mother Experiencing Postpartum depression


After giving birth, it’s normal to feel moody, exhausted, and overwhelmed. You’re dealing with a physical recovery, all while your hormones are dropping. And you may have a newborn keeping you up at all hours of the day, disrupting your routine and lifestyle. The early days of parenthood can be challenging, but how do you know if it’s baby blues or postpartum depression (PPD)?

Approximately 60%-80% of all new mothers suffer from the postpartum blues, also known as “baby blues.” B definition, the baby blues self-resolve within two weeks, but up to 20% of these cases can turn into postpartum depression, so it’s important to understand the differences between the two and when to seek treatment.

What to Expect With Baby Blues

Having a baby is a major life change. You may have just returned home after the delivery and now you’re feeling moody, uncomfortable, and vulnerable, wondering if this is normal. It is. In fact, baby blues are experienced by most new parents. Symptoms usually occur within one to three days after birth. They may come and go each day, but they usually disappear on their own without treatment.

Common symptoms of baby blues include:

  • Irritability
  • Unexplained crying
  • Anxiety
  • Impatience
  • Poor sleep
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling vulnerable
  • Loneliness 
  • Feeling worried
  • Feeling unhappy

A history of anxiety or depressive orders, a history of PMS, feelings of uncertainty around this change, body image, and loss of independence can all be associated with and predictive risk factors for baby blues.

To combat baby blues, Lauren Demosthenes, MD, Senior Medical Director at Babyscripts, recommends rest, a good nutritious diet, and a strong support system. You can also take walks, get fresh air, or practice other forms of self-care. If symptoms continue beyond two weeks, this could be a sign of postpartum depression.

What to Expect With Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression can feel like the baby blues at first, but symptoms will persist, worsen, and/or change. In addition to feeling anxiety or loneliness, you may experience more extreme symptoms which don’t go away on their own. Considered a perinatal mood disorder, postpartum depression can occur at any time within the first year after childbirth,  though commonly appears within six weeks.

Postpartum depression, unlike baby blues, requires treatment, so if you’re experiencing ongoing and persistence symptoms, notify your OB-GYN, primary care doctor, or midwife. They may refer you to a mental health professional. 

Symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness or helplessness
  • Poor sleep or the inability to sit still
  • Anxiety or sadness
  • Abnormal changes in appetite, diet, or weight
  • Loss of interest in activities you typically enjoy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Digestive issues
  • Loss of energy or fatigue
  • Feelings of self-harm or harming the baby
  • Feeling emotionally detached from your baby
  • Thoughts of suicide or death

Recent studies show that one in seven women develop postpartum depression. It occurs more commonly in adolescent females, mothers who deliver premature infants, and women living in urban areas, but can occur in anyone, regardless of background, genetic makeup, ability, or circumstance.

This is why it’s important to notify a medical or mental health professional if you suspect you or a loved one is experiencing postpartum depression. 

“Your health care team will screen you for depression at least once during your pregnancy and again postpartum. Just remember that if the symptoms do not begin to improve after two weeks, or if they become more severe with thoughts of self harm or harm to your newborn, seek help from your care team,” says Dr. Demosthenes, who recommends visiting Postpartum Support International for resources.

Treatment for Postpartum Depression

Anything more severe than mild illness requires antidepressants with additional benefits from psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used to treat postpartum parents. Antidepressants are safe to take during pregnancy and postpartum, and may be recommended by your provider.

Working closely with your care team, you can determine the severity of your condition, what treatment plan works best for your situation, and make adjustments, as needed, to ensure you and the baby are safe. The good news is that postpartum depression is treatable.

Unfortunately, many new parents experience postpartum depression and don’t get diagnosed or treated right away. If you’re suffering from sleep deprivation, anxiety, irritability, hopelessness, or other symptoms of depression, let your medical team know. Undiagnosed postpartum depression can worsen and lead to psychosis, self-harm, suicide, or filicide.

“In order to better prevent postpartum depression, recommendations include the use of screening instruments as a routine clinical practice during pregnancy and referral when necessary,” says Dr. Demosthenes. “Maternal depression has a severe impact on both mother and child, so mental health professionals have a very important role in reducing postnatal emotional complications.”

A Word From Verywell

Baby blues and postpartum depression are common, but that doesn’t mean you should suffer alone. No matter if your condition is minor or severe, there are supportive people out there who can help you develop coping strategies, practice self-care, or establish a treatment plan. Caring for yourself and your mental health is just as important as caring for your baby. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with postpartum depression, contact Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4773 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Sarah Sheppard
Sarah Sheppard is a writer, editor, ghostwriter, writing instructor, and advocate for mental health, women's issues, and more.