Mood swings after the birth of a baby are not uncommon. While the “baby blues” are the least severe form of postpartum depression, it is important not to ignore the changes that are happening in your body. Many women feel confused about struggling with sadness after the joyous event of adding a new baby to the family and often don’t talk about it. But talking about these emotions, changes, and challenges is one of the best ways to cope with the “baby blues”.
Baby Blues: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
How often do women experience the “baby blues?”
Approximately 70-80% of all new mothers experience some negative feelings or mood swings after the birth of their child.
When do the “baby blues” occur and what are the symptoms?
Often the symptoms of “baby blues” will hit forcefully within four to five days after the birth of the baby, although depending on how the birth of the baby went, they may be noticeable earlier.
Symptoms of “baby blues” include:
- Weepiness or crying for no apparent reason
- Insomnia (even when the baby is sleeping)
- Mood changes
- Poor concentration
What causes the “baby blues?”
The exact cause of the “baby blues” is unknown at this time. It is thought to be related to the hormone changes that occur during pregnancy and again after a baby is born. These hormonal changes may produce chemical changes in the brain that result in depression.
Also, the amount of adjustment that comes after the birth of a baby, along with sleep disturbance, disruption of “routine”, and emotions from the childbirth experience itself can all contribute to how a new mom feels.
How long do the “baby blues” last?
The symptoms of the “baby blues” normally occur for a few minutes up to a few hours each day. These symptoms should lessen and disappear within fourteen days after delivery.
How can you take care of yourself?
Taking care of mom is the best way to decrease the symptoms of the “baby blues.” There are several different ways that you can care for yourself if you are having the “baby blues.”
- Talk with someone that you trust about how you are feeling.
- Maintain a well-balanced diet. Having a new baby may cause you not to eat correctly, and too many simple carbohydrates can make mood swings more pronounced. We discuss the importance of Omega-3 fats below.
- Keep a journal of all your thoughts and feelings.
- Get outside to enjoy fresh air and life outside the confines of diapers, feedings, and spit up. Sometimes just a different view for a few moments can make a huge difference.
- Ask for help–help with meals, other children, getting into a “routine”, or any help that allows you to focus on the joy of having a new baby and not just the pressure of juggling it all.
- Don’t expect perfection in the first few weeks. Give yourself time to heal from birth, to adjust to your new “job,” and for feeding and sleeping routines to settle in.
It is important to remember that you are not alone in your feelings. If your symptoms last longer than fourteen days it could be an indication of a more serious condition, such as postpartum depression. Be honest with your care provider at all your follow up appointments. Remember you are not going to shock them with your feelings. They speak with postpartum women all the time and can evaluate how you are doing if you are honest about where you are at.
Preventing the Baby Blues
If taken during the prenatal period, studies have shown that the Omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA, may lower the risk of pre-term birth and lower the risk of postpartum depression in new mothers. Additionally, inadequate maternal intake of Omega-3s has also been linked to child-onset Type 1 Diabetes.
Facts about Omega-3 Fatty Acids
DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) are considered “essential fatty acids” in that they cannot be synthesized by the body, and therefore must be obtained from the diet. DHA is important for the development of the central nervous system in all mammals. There is an enormous growth spurt in the human brain during the last trimester of pregnancy and the first postnatal months, with a large increase in the cerebral content of Arachidonic Acid (AA) and DHA. The fetus and the newborn infant depend on a continual maternal supply of DHA and AA.
Studies show that the maternal supply of Omega-3 fats is being preferentially shuttled from the mother’s own supply during pregnancy, primarily from her brain, and is directly transported through the placenta to the developing fetus.
If a pregnant mother is not regularly eating fish such as salmon, cod, tuna, and sardines.she may not be getting enough Omega 3s and it will leave her feeling depleted. Women who eat enough fish during pregnancy or supplement with a high-quality fish oil product are less likely to suffer from the baby blues. The American Pregnancy Association recommends Safe Catch Tuna because they test every fish for its mercury content to ensure it meets their strict purity standards.
Several clinical trials have demonstrated that children of women who took fish oil supplementation during pregnancy and while nursing had higher IQs than children whose mothers received a placebo. Additionally, researchers found that women who ate less than 12 ounces of fish or other seafood a week while pregnant were more likely to have children with verbal and other developmental delays than women who ate more than 12 ounces each week.
How Can I get Omega-3s in My Diet and How Much do I Need?
Currently, the proposed adequate intake of DHA for pregnant and lactating women is 300 mg. per day. The current recommendation is 450 mg of DHA daily throughout pregnancy and a more balanced blend of EPA and DHA, roughly 625 mg of DHA and 410 mg of EPA, during lactation.
The energy demands on a mother’s body during the initial period of lactation is greater than during the latter part of pregnancy, especially if she is taking care of other children. EPA and DHA occur together in nature and work synergistically together. An excellent way to meet your need for these essential fatty acids is in Prenatal DHA during pregnancy and Arctic Cod liver oil during lactation.
The production of breast milk requires an additional average of 640 calories per day. Optimal milk production requires a total caloric intake of at least 2,000 calories daily. One of the primary energy sources for lactation is from fat storage from the diet.
This requires an additional 500 calories from fat a day, just for the formation of healthy breast milk. A reserve needs to be left over for mom so that she can maintain her own levels of Omega-3s for mental clarity and tissue integrity. Fish oil supplementation is rapidly becoming an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet for both mom and baby.