worried mum

You’ve arrived home with your baby and feel overjoyed but then, out of nowhere, all you can do is cry. Welcome to a very common condition: the baby blues…

What are the baby blues?

Not just an old wives’ tale, the baby blues are real, affecting up to 80% of women after they give birth (NICE, 2014). Women who experience the baby blues can expect to feel down for a little while shortly after having their baby (NHS Choices, 2018a).

What are the symptoms of the baby blues?

If you’re going through the baby blues, you might feel:

  • emotional, irrational or overwhelmed

  • tearful (without knowing why)

  • irritable and moody

  • down or anxious.

(NHS Choices, 2018b; MIND, 2018)

Symptoms might upset you at the time, but they are relatively mild and will usually pass within 10 to 14 days (MIND, 2018). If they hang around, become more severe or include manic symptoms, they could be signs of more serious postnatal illness. You should speak to your GP or health visitor about getting some help and support (NICE, 2014).

"If you think it might be something more serious, talk to your GP or health visitor."

What causes the baby blues?

As with so many postpartum issues, the baby blues mostly come down to hormones (NHS Choices, 2018b). They happen after the sudden drop in your hormone (oestrogen) and chemical levels just after you give birth. Your oestrogen levels drop more than 100 fold in the first three days after your baby is born (Dowlati, et al 2016).

There’s also the huge weight of responsibility that comes with bringing a human into the world. Much as you love your child, it’s ok to admit that when you first get home, having a baby can feel seriously overwhelming (MIND, 2016).

How can I prevent or cure the baby blues?

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do when it comes to avoiding the baby blues. It’s as normal a part of the post-birth experience as sleep deprivation and drinking loads of tea.

The good news is that for most women, the symptoms will pass in a few days. So ride it out by doing anything you need to feel better.

Ask family to pop over and help out around the house or chat to a friend about how you’re feeling. On the other hand, if it’s all getting a bit too much, you could simply ban the visitors for a few days.

Yet if your symptoms don’t ease and you suspect something more serious is going on, speak to your GP or health visitor. The baby blues can be a risk factor for postnatal depression (NHS Choices, 2018a).

This page was last reviewed in January 2018

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

Dowlati Y, Ravindran AV, Segal ZV Stewart DE, Steiner M, Meyer JH. (2016) Improved resilience against depressed mood in early postpartum after dietary supplement administration. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 26(2):478. Available from: https://www.ecnp.eu/presentationpdfs/70/P.2.h.007.pdf [Accessed 2nd January 2018].

MIND. (2016) Understanding postnatal depression and perinatal mental health. Available from: https://www.mind.org.uk/media/4852718/understanding-postnatal-depression-2016.pdf [Accessed 2nd January 2018].

MIND. (2018) Postnatal depression and perinatal mental heath problems. Available from: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/postnatal-and-antenatal-depression/#.WmHSVkt8uRs [Accessed 2nd January 2018].

NHS Choices. (2018a) Postnatal depression pages. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-natal-depression/ [Accessed 2nd January 2018].

NHS Choices. (2018b) Your pregnancy and baby guide. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/feeling-depressed-after-birth/? [Accessed 2nd January 2018].

NICE. (2014) Antenatal and postnatal mental health. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence clinical management and service guidance CG192. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg192/evidence/full-guideline-pdf-193396861 [Accessed 2nd January 2018].

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