Postpartum Mood: The In Between Place

After talking with one very candid and amazing mom, who is only six weeks postpartum, I got to thinking about the in between place, the place just beyond the baby blues. I’m still processing this idea, so consider this a “thinking out loud” post, and I welcome your comments.

First, I’ve officially come to hate the label “baby blues.” It sounds so benign and harmless to me. Here’s a list of the baby blues symptoms via the Mayo Clinic:

Signs and symptoms of the baby blues — which last only a few days to a week or two — may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Crying
  • Decreased concentration
  • Trouble sleeping

What new parent isn’t experiencing decreased concentration and trouble sleeping? Those two are totally unhelpful. This list is difficult to interpret amongst the hormones of postpartum, at least it was for me.

the gapSo what about women who are experiencing these symptoms and they don’t begin to improve until six weeks? Is this baby blues of postpartum depression? It lasted for longer than a week or two. I find from talking with women that they are often told to “wait it out” when they’re in this in between place. They aren’t having panic attacks. They are taking care of their baby. Wait a little while and it gets better. And it does for those who aren’t clinically anxious or depressed, but the waiting is torturous because you don’t know that ending is coming.

So what is this in between place? When women have fantasies about leaving and not coming back? When they can’t stop the relentless feelings of resentment about losing their old selves?

I think we need a different name for the baby blues and maybe the step between that and postpartum depression. Maybe “this-is-completely-overwhelming” for the baby blues and “I’m-teetering-on-an-emotional-cliff” for the step beyond? I don’t know how to create these labels, but I think healthcare providers need to see beyond them.

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2 thoughts on “Postpartum Mood: The In Between Place

  1. In regards to the “baby blues”, how about “the transition phase”? Or maybe “the hormone surge” since we know there is a tremendous amount of maternal hormones circulating that can also contribute to these emotions.

    By the way, if I haven’t told you lately … YOU ARE AMAZING.

  2. You are SO right! I was talking to a friend who was asking me about my PPD (or rather, to be more specific, my perinatal depression), because she was afraid she was in one. It’s her 2nd child and she’s in her 3rd week postpartum… She was basically trying to ask how much time before you can actually tell if it’s depression… I told her (among other things) that as much as i know, doctors consider it abnormal if the symptoms go beyond 6 weeks (which i’m not totally sûre about!)… Right while i was telling her that, i felt like i was kind of letting her down: how could i tell her to wait it out? How could i tell her “Yeah, you’re feeling horrible, but just continue feeling horrible for 3 or 4 more weeks”…! I listened to her and tried helping her the best i could, but i really felt like i didn’t have much to offer!

    The thing is, my own depression was really hard to identify. Life as a pregnant woman and then life with a newborn, it’s just so much to handle emotionally and physically… But i think you’re on the right track, trying to find a way to better define ” baby blues” vs “depression”. I think it has something to do with intensity. Baby blues is intense, but it’s not taking over your life for more than a few days… Any new thoughts on the subject?

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