Feeling low after childbirth (what are the baby blues?)

Many women expect to only feel excited and full of joy after having a baby. But sometimes, and out of nowhere, all you may want to do is cry. This can be due to a very common condition which is often called the baby blues.

During the first week after childbirth, many women get what's often called the 'baby blues'. Women who experience this may feel low for a little while shortly after having their baby. This can take you by surprise. After all, you’re probably expecting to feel nothing but happiness after having a baby. But the baby blues are normal and nothing to worry about.

What are the symptoms of the baby blues?

The baby blues are very common. Symptoms can include:

  • feeling emotional and irrational
  • bursting into tears for no apparent reason
  • feeling irritable or touchy
  • feeling depressed or anxious.

These feelings usually start in the week after birth and usually last for a few days.

What causes the baby blues?

Baby blues are due to the sudden hormonal and chemical changes that happen in your body after giving birth. Your body (and mind) have just been through an extraordinary experience – it will take a bit of time to adjust. Find out more about what your body goes through after giving birth.

There’s also the fact that you are now responsible for another human being. You’ll probably have lots of lovely moments in the first few days after the birth, but it can also be overwhelming. Not only will you be recovering from the birth, but you’ll also be learning how to feed your baby, how to soothe them, how to bathe them – all of this, and you’ll probably be learning to cope with less sleep too.

“We walked through the front door and I burst into tears. I think it was a classic combination of hormones and the realisation that, for the first time, it was just the 3 of us.”

Alison

Can I prevent or stop the baby blues?

Unfortunately, no. There isn’t much you can do when it comes to avoiding the baby blues. It can be a tough time and you may find that the smallest things upset you. Try not to worry though because a lot of new mums goes through this. Becoming a mother can have a massive impact on how you feel about yourself. But things should get better.

It may be difficult but try to look after yourself as well as your new baby. Even little things can help. You could try:

  • taking a long, hot shower
  • take a little break from the baby – this could be as simple as leaving them with a family member or friend while you go out for a coffee
  • doing some gentle exercise, such as going for a walk
  • eating well
  • drinking plenty of water
  • resting as much as you can – it may help to sleep when your baby sleeps.

What if the baby blues doesn’t go away?

If your feelings don’t go away or get worse, this could be a sign of a more serious mental health problem, such as postnatal depression. This is nothing to be ashamed of and you are not alone. Up to 1 in 5 women develop mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth.

Many people find it hard to talk about negative feelings after having a baby because they feel under pressure to be happy. But don’t be afraid to tell someone how you feel. Your midwife, GP and health visitor will understand and will do whatever they can to support you.

There are treatments available if you have a mental health condition during or after pregnancy. What you are offered will depend partly on what your symptoms are, how severe they are and what’s available locally. Find out more about treatments for mental health conditions.

No one will judge you for how you feel. The most important thing is that you get the support you need to take care of yourself and your baby.

Tommy’s wellbeing plan

We have developed a pregnancy and post-birth wellbeing plan to help you think about your mental health during and after pregnancy. It also helps you think about who will support you and has tips for looking after yourself.

Find out more about after the birth.

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Sources

NHS Choices. Feeling depressed after childbirth https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/feeling-depressed-after-birth/ (Page last reviewed: 24/08/2018 Next review due: 24/08/2021)

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (February 2017) Maternal Mental Health – Women’s Voices https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/information/maternalmental-healthwomens-voices.pdf

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    Last reviewed on May 15th, 2020. Next review date May 15th, 2023.

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