Baby Blues and postpartum depression: when childbirth changes a woman

The birth of a child is a unique and precious event that brings with it countless physical and psychological changes. In particular, the days following childbirth are very delicate for the new mother as she is subject to strong hormonal and neuroendocrine stresses which can cause changes in mood, appetite and sleep-wake rhythm.

What is Baby Blues?

Most women respond adequately to the changes following birth, living the whole experience positively. Some, however, present a state of temporary malaise which takes the name of Baby Blues. This condition manifests itself in 50-80% of cases in the first 10 days after giving birth and is characterized by emotional lability, crying spells, a sense of inadequacy and tiredness without affecting the new mother’s ability to take care of her puppy or to have feelings of joy in watching him grow.

In fact, these symptoms are not pathological and tend to resolve spontaneously within two weeks . We can define them as a physiological response of our body to the rapid hormonal and psychic processes experienced in the first weeks after childbirth.

It therefore becomes necessary to create a welcoming family environment , which can support the development of the mother-child relationship in the identification process.

In particular , the support from the partner helps the woman to find a state of serenity and well-being in the shortest possible time, feeling less alone and facing the puerperium with more peace of mind. Furthermore, prolactin and breastfeeding in general are a powerful antidepressant for the mother, supporting her in this delicate adaptation phase.

However, if a month after giving birth, the mother still feels in this melancholy state, it will be advisable to contact your doctor to assess whether there are signs of postpartum depression.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression can affect up to 1 in 10 mothers and, in most cases, it begins already during pregnancy and then manifests itself 4-6 weeks after delivery. The new mother experiences depressed mood, loss of interest and pleasure, reduced energy, loss of confidence and self-esteem, excessive guilt feelings, concentration difficulties, sleep and appetite disturbances with a consequent alteration in caring for the newborn.

This state of so profound malaise , in fact, often leads the woman to interpret incorrectly the signals and requests that the child solicits from her, causing an emotional detachment and a compromise of the future attachment relationship . Furthermore, feelings of guilt and shame that often accompany the mother can further aggravate her symptomatological picture and lead the latter not to ask for help but, on the contrary, not to express her emotions and to wear a mask pretending that everything is fine .

Precisely for this reason, the family of origin and the partner play a very important role who, by supporting and knowing them more than anyone else, can understand and interpret the hidden signs of a deep malaise and encourage them to ask for help. They can also be of support when the woman is ill, helping her in managing the child and the house.

It is necessary to prevent the new mother from isolating herself by listening and comforting her and inviting her to feel free to express her anxieties and fears .

One solution would be to participate in postpartum and breastfeeding support groups in counseling centers and neighborhood associations. This intervention must not be a substitute for a targeted and professional psychological journey but must represent a moment of sharing and knowledge with other women who are going through the same moment. Once you have asked for help, your general practitioner will find the most effective and customizable therapeutic strategy together with the woman.

In these cases it is important to act promptly so as not to make the new mother lose all those fantastic moments and memories that characterize the first weeks of the child’s life and to be able to create a secure and lasting mother-child attachment relationship as soon as possible.

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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