This article explores the baby blues or the post natal blues, how to prevent them and how to help overcome the baby blues.

What are the baby blues?

Everyone feels low to some extent when they have a baby. There are varying degrees to this, however, so you may also want to read about postnatal depression and postnatal psychosis. See below for links to related articles.

Having a new baby is a hugely life changing experience, particularly your first. The feelings are endless. Women commonly report –

  • Feeling out of control
  • Extreme loneliness
  • Pressure to feel instant love for their baby
  • Tiredness like they have never known it before
  • Frustration and anger
  • Isolation from their previous lifestyle and friends.

These feelings are often particularly strong over the first few days and weeks. Every one of these reactions and many more are perfectly normal ways of responding to having a baby.

Lack of sleep, hormonal changes, significant life changes, even grief all help contribute to some of these feelings.

As your body recovers and you have some sleep, albeit brief, most women gradually feel more normal and find themselves adjusting to their new role as mothers over a period of time.

How can you overcome the baby blues?

A huge hormonal shift occurs after the birth, as your body adjusts to the end of pregnancy and prepares to make milk to nourish your baby.

In addition to this all mums inevitably have disturbed sleep, due to labour and possibly for a few days prior to that, when contractions have been infrequent and irregular, but enough to stop you sleeping.

At a time when you are desperate for rest and recovery, your new baby demonstrates a completely different body clock to your own and wakes you constantly through the night. Inevitably you are exhausted by day 3!

This is all unavoidable, but many other factors are not. We can make this time easier by being realistic about what is ahead and preparing for it.

Can the baby blues be prevented?

The baby blues cannot be entirely prevented, but the severity can be lessened by resting and preparing as much as possible for the time ahead.

Eating well in pregnancy to prepare for the birth and postnatal period. For some great advice on nutrition in pregnancy from our Nutritionist and Dietitian, click on the link below.

Exercising in pregnancy to keep you fit and well. Exercise encourages your body to produce endorphins, the body’s natural opiates, so a daily walk in the sunshine truly will help you stay happy and positive in pregnancy.

Resting every day – discover your library or your DVD shop and factor in rest time to your busy schedule.

Consider who you would like to visit you in the early days and who you would rather put off until you feel stronger and fitter. Tell them your midwife has banned visitors, and then it won’t seem personal.

Cook lots of easy meals and freeze them towards the end of pregnancy – that way you’re getting great home cooked food, without the daily bother. Preparing a decent meal is often the first thing we forego when we’re busy, so having a freezer full of casseroles and lasagne will be a huge bonus.

When you are offered help – say yes please! Never say oh I’m fine. There’s always something that someone can do to help when you’ve just had a baby (ironing, dinner, washing, vacuuming) and those that have ‘been there done that’ will all want to help.

Consider how you will make up the sleep that you will inevitably lose during the night. A long lie, an afternoon rest – however it fits in best with your life.

Do women get the blues with every baby?

The hormonal shift will occur after every birth and it is likely that a few nights sleep will be disturbed prior to the onset of ‘established labour’. However, many women feel better after subsequent births, as they may have prepared themselves better for the birth and post natal period and have more realistic expectations of what can be achieved in a day.

So despite having an active toddler or two, many women feel they cope better with the new arrival the second time around.

Every pregnancy, birth and postnatal recovery period are unique. Take care of yourself so that you can do a great job of caring for your family.

Useful resources

For advice on keeping yourself healthy in pregnancy visit Nutrition in Pregnancy. You may want to consider hypnosis if you’re finding the baby blues aren’t going away and are really starting to get you down.

For more info on the spectrum of depression after childbirth visit Postnatal Depression and Postnatal Psychosis which is a serious condition that requires immediate treatment.

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Paula Skelton is a qualified NZ nurse and midwife, a midwifery & childbirth educator and the mum of three lovely girls.

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