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Baby blues - information and support

Feeling emotional or low after birth is very common. The majority of new mothers experience the ‘baby blues’. Find out what it is, signs and symptoms and how long it lasts.

This article covers:
What are the 'baby blues'?
What causes baby blues?
Common baby blues symptoms
How long does the baby blues last?
What can be done to help
Further information

What are the baby blues?

During the first week after giving birth, some mums may find themselves feeling weepy and irritable. This is called the ‘baby blues’ and it is experienced by many mums after giving birth.

What causes the baby blues?

The baby blues are thought to be linked to the changes in chemical and hormone levels two to four days after giving birth. Suddenly, your body has some major adjustments to make. Levels of certain hormones that were required during pregnancy drop rapidly, while others that promote the bonding process and trigger the start of milk production rise. These rapid changes can leave you feeling confused.

You will also be facing some emotional changes. Actually holding your baby for the first time can be a wonderful feeling but it may make the responsibility of being a parent seem all the more real, and this can be overwhelming. Problems, such as jaundice or feeding difficulties are very common among new babies, but they can cause parents anxiety for a time.

You may also feel uncertain about how to care for your baby, and the reality of the day to day routine of caring for him may come as an anti-climax after the excitement building up to the birth. Added to which you may be sleep deprived, leaving you feeling exhausted, which can increase any negative feelings you may have.

Common baby blues symptoms

Symptoms of the baby blues can include feeling emotional and irrational; bursting into tears for no apparent reason; feeling irritable or touchy and/or feeling depressed or anxious.

What can you do if you think you have the baby blues?

The baby blues is not an illness and you should feel better, without any medical treatment, within a few days. If you find that you’re still feeling the same way after this time, share your feelings with your health visitor, friends and/or family. This could be a sign that you might be experiencing postnatal depression (PND).

The six-week check with your GP is a good time to discuss emotional health and wellbeing, in addition to your physical recovery.

If you are a partner, family member or friend of someone with the baby blues there are ways in which you can help:

  • Encourage them to express their feelings.
  • Avoid telling her to ‘pull herself together’; instead listen and reassure her that she will feel better.
  • Keep visitors to a minimum and find ways to help make things easier, such as doing any chores, or holding baby while she gets some rest.

Above all, let her know you are there for her, no matter what.

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. Our #BeyondBabyBlues campaign is encouraging parents to talk more openly about maternal mental health, to avoid the mistake of dismissing potentially serious mental health issues in themselves, friends or family, and to seek help if they need it.

You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

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.

NHS Choices has information on the ‘baby blues’ and postnatal depression.

#PNDHour is an online peer support group that runs every Wednesday at 8pm via the Twitter account @PNDandMe. Anyone can join in to discuss topics about antenatal and postnatal depression, such as self-care, medication and seeking help. It’s run by a mum called Rosey who also blogs about her own experiences with antenatal and postnatal depression, as well as raising awareness of perinatal mental illness, at PND and me.