Dossier: Our baby

When euphoria gives way to baby blues

Despite the joy at the arrival of the new family member, four out of five women can cry at the drop of a hat a few days after the birth. It’s quite normal.

Text: Helwi Braunmiller; photo: Unsplash

Living with a new baby produces a roller-coaster of emotions. Euphoria usually gets you through the first few days of sleepless nights and insecurities, but three to six days after the birth, most women experience a real low point.

It all adds up: the lack of sleep hits in, postnatal bleeding can be uncomfortable. Some women experience discomfort from the caesarean section or perineal sutures. Your breasts ache as your milk comes in. And some babies discover their voice and start to cry more. Added to this is the mental strain, as you finally understand that things will never be the same again. After a trouble-free birth, most women are usually at home again by this point. The new parents are now left to fend for themselves – with all the new experiences and insecurities this brings.

Emotional but natural process of adjustment

Suddenly new mums don’t recognise themselves any more. They burst into tears at the slightest things, they are emotional, anxious, feel a bit off, and unable to sleep despite being tired. These baby blues usually vanish automatically after a few days.

It helps to know that feeling emotional is part of a natural process of adjustment. New mums experience huge hormonal changes straight after the birth. Once the placenta has been delivered, the production of pregnancy hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone, stops immediately. They circulate in the body for a few days after the birth, but disappear completely after about three days. The woman’s body now produces the breastfeeding hormone prolactin. And the baby blues set in.

This can help:

  • Let yourself feel these emotions and don’t try to be a “perfect” mum.
  • As a partner, provide moral support and try to be understanding.
  • Don’t worry if you feel challenged or even overwhelmed by the baby in the first few weeks. If you want a bit of time to yourself, don’t be afraid to tell people that. Visitors can wait.
  • Eat healthily and, even though it’s difficult, try to make time for yourself.

If your mood doesn’t brighten after two weeks and the feelings of hopelessness and sadness, anxiety and restlessness don’t go away, you may be suffering from postnatal depression. And you should definitely seek treatment. Don’t be afraid to talk to your midwife, health worker or gynaecologist.