I guess that’s why they call it the blues

Don’t wish it away
Don’t look at it like it’s forever
Between you and me
I could honestly say
That things can only get better

…And I guess that’s why they call it the blues

Two months on, and I’m pretty certain I’ve been fortunate enough to escape being affected by postnatal depression. However, thinking back to those first few days at home with Pip, I’m sure I had a classic case of the baby blues.

The NHS defines the baby blues as follows:

“During the first week after childbirth, many women get what’s often called the ‘baby blues’. This is probably due to the sudden hormonal and chemical changes that take place in your body after childbirth.

Symptoms can include:

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

All these symptoms are normal and usually only last for a few days.”

I think most of those “symptoms” are all part of being a woman really! The only one I didn’t experience was “bursting into tears for no apparent reason”. Sure, I burst into tears a lot…but there was always a reason. The problem was, there were way too many reasons! To name a few: breastfeeding woes… fears about our health… the crippling tiredness… and overwhelming love for our baby (tears are not always a negative thing!) For me, the blues coincided precisely with my milk coming in on day 4. On the morning of day 8 I felt something lift, and by day 9 I was sitting in the living room with Pip on my lap, my Dad and Mr Cath watching the Ashes, my Mum having a nap in the next room (it was exhausting for her too!) and felt not quite but very close to normal.

I would be absolutely amazed to hear of any new mother not experiencing at least a couple of the symptoms above. Who isn’t anxious about the wellbeing of their tiny baby? Who isn’t affected emotionally by the turmoil of hormones following birth? And if you don’t cry, I salute your nerves of steel in disbelief.

I expect the baby blues tend to hit first time mums the hardest. Once you’ve already done it, a) you know what to expect so should hopefully not be too overwhelmed; and b) there’s already a child there to be looked after so you don’t have the time or inclination for emotional outbursts. But on the other hand, you might need even more help and support. We’ll have to wait and see with that one!

Babycentre provides some great advice about how to look after someone who has the blues. During those few days I learned that it’s ok for someone else to stack my dishwasher… moreover, if they don’t fit as much in as I would have, it doesn’t matter! The suggestions include:

  • Help her to organise her time, and work out what needs doing now, and what can wait.
  • Cook dinner for her.
  • Tell her what a great mum she is.
  • Keep visitors to a minimum.

It’s when the blues don’t go away that it becomes problematic and could be postnatal depression, which is a far more serious condition. Or, more worryingly I think, the blues can pass and you think you’re through the worst, but then depression can strike with little or no warning. My health visitor told me you can literally wake up one day and have it. So that’s one to watch out for. While the NHS says “many” women get the baby blues, around 1 in 10 are diagnosed with postnatal depression which makes it less common but still very prevalent, especially when you consider those women that must never get diagnosed. There’s so much help available now for sufferers of postnatal depression; a good place to start is the NHS website which includes a video where real mothers talk about their experiences.

While not specifically about postnatal experience (although now Sir Elton has a couple of Pips of his own I’ll be expecting a song to that effect), the lyrics above really rang true for me. The baby blues don’t last forever; it gets better; but in the meantime, don’t wish away those first few precious days with your newborn baby!

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