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What is the Difference Between the Baby Blues and Postnatal Depression?

postnatal depression mum holding baby

Bringing a new life into the world is a transformative experience, and sometimes that experience isn’t as joyous as we think it’s going to be. During the postnatal period, many new mothers may find themselves facing intense mood swings and emotional fluctuations, which are often referred to as the "baby blues." However, for some, these feelings can persist and escalate into a more serious condition known as postnatal depression. Knowing the difference is crucial to ensuring that new mothers receive the appropriate support and care they need during this critical time.

The Baby Blues:

The baby blues are a common and temporary emotional state that affects most new mothers. These feelings typically arise within the first week after childbirth and can last for a few days up to two weeks. Mothers experiencing the baby blues might find themselves feeling weepy, irritable, anxious, or overwhelmed. They may also have trouble sleeping and feel physically and emotionally exhausted. These emotions are considered a natural response to the significant hormonal changes that occur after giving birth.

Key Characteristics of the Baby Blues:

1. Occurrence: Usually begins within a few days after childbirth and resolves within two weeks.

2. Intensity: Emotional symptoms are mild and manageable.

3. Duration: Symptoms come and go in waves and are relatively short-lived.

4. Impact on daily life: The baby blues do not significantly disrupt a mother's ability to care for herself or her baby.

5. Support: Emotional support from family and friends is often sufficient for coping with the baby blues.

Postnatal Depression:

Postnatal depression counselling support helps

Postnatal depression, on the other hand, is a more severe and prolonged condition that affects approximately 10-20% of new mothers. It typically emerges within the first year after childbirth and can persist for months or longer if left untreated. Unlike the baby blues, postnatal depression typically gets worse without professional help.

Key Characteristics of Postnatal Depression:

1. Occurrence: Typically begins within the first year after childbirth (though if you’re outside this 1 year it is still a possibility) and is ongoing.

2. Intensity: Emotional symptoms are more intense and may include profound sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness, emotional highs and lows or a flat or numb feeling.

3. Duration: Symptoms are persistent and do not subside on their own.

4. Impact on daily life: Postnatal depression can significantly disrupt a mother's ability to care for herself and her baby. It is crucial to say here that this does not mean a mother is unfit to care for her child, she simply needs professional support to help her work through this period.

5. Support: Though emotional support from family and friends will be of huge support, professional help, such as psychotherapy or counselling, is often necessary to effectively manage and treat postnatal depression.

Differentiating Between Baby Blues and Postnatal Depression:

It is crucial to recognize that the line between the baby blues and postnatal depression can be blurry, and what may start as the baby blues can develop into postnatal depression if the symptoms persist and worsen over time. Additionally, some mothers may be at a higher risk of developing postnatal depression due to factors such as a history of depression, lack of social support, or stressful life events.

If you or someone you know is a new mother experiencing prolonged and intense emotional struggles beyond the first two weeks after childbirth, it is essential to seek professional help. Postnatal depression is a treatable condition, and early intervention can significantly improve the mother's well-being and the mother-infant relationship. And if it’s been going on for a while, it’s never too late.

Postnatal depression counsellor

As a counsellor, I am dedicated to providing a safe, non-judgmental, and supportive

space for new mothers to explore their emotions, thoughts, and experiences. Through psychotherapy, we can work together to identify the underlying causes of postnatal depression, develop coping strategies, and build a way to a calm and balanced journey through motherhood.

Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness; it is a courageous step towards healing and growth.

As a postnatal depression counsellor, I am here to support you on your journey to recovery. Don't hesitate to reach out and take the first step towards a brighter and more fulfilling motherhood experience. Together, we can navigate through the challenges of postnatal depression and help you rediscover the joy and beauty of motherhood.


Claire Judd Postnatal Depression Counsellor

Claire Judd is a fully qualified counsellor in Harrogate, working with mums with postnatal depression. If you’re struggling, get in touch for a free 15 min call to find out how we can work together.

You can book online here: and can find out more about counselling for postnatal depression here: Follow @therapy.for.mums on instagram for information, tips and advice.

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