6 ways to beat the baby blues

Are your sad feelings the baby blues or something more sinister? Also, learn ways to help yourself feel better.


What many call the joy of new motherhood is also a time of anxiety and panic for many women. This initial period, commonly described as the “baby blues”, is usually an emotionally and physically challenging one for mothers, who are getting used to sleep deprivation and feel overwhelmed at having to care for a crying, needy baby.

          “The baby blues usually occurs early, within the first few days of childbirth, and is characterised by anxiety, insomnia, weepiness and irritability,” notes Dr Adrian Wang, a consultant psychiatrist at Gleneagles Medical Centre. “It may last up to a month and goes away by itself.”

          Some 80 per cent of new mums struggle with the baby blues, according to Mental Health America, a non-profit organisation that promotes mental health. Postpartum depression (PPD) may begin as the baby blues, but the symptoms worsen over time. If you suffered depression or postpartum depression before, you’re at greater risk of getting PPD. Postpartum psychosis, a severe but rare form of PPD, begins 48 to 72 hours after delivery. Symptoms include insomnia, hallucinations, feelings of worthlessness and intense guilt.

          “The key feature in postpartum depression is a pervasive sense of gloominess and sadness and feeling guilty about not being able to enjoy the baby,” Dr Wang explains. “The weepiness lasts longer and the irritability is worse — meltdowns and crying spells can last for a long time.”

“Having PPD does not mean you are a bad mother…it’s caused by hormonal and chemical changes in the body. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Dark daze
An estimated 10 per cent of women in Singapore get postpartum depression, Dr Wang notes. It’s a ballpark figure as there’s a tendency for many women to suffer in silence as they feel ashamed at feeling anything but euphoric when their little bundles arrive.

          Mothers should not blame themselves for what they are going through, says psychologist Anoushka Beh, a family therapist who runs her own practice. “This is a huge transition that affects new mums in varying ways due to a number of internal as well as environmental factors.”

          With the right support and tools, PPD sufferers can recover and go on to have a fulfilling and happy experience of motherhood and family life, Beh adds.

          Dr Wang concurs. “Having PPD does not mean you are a bad mother, or that you have a personal weakness, it’s caused by hormonal and chemical changes in the body. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

          If left untreated, a mum with PPD can pose a danger to herself and her baby, warns Dr Hana Ra Adams, a marriage and family therapist. A mum with this debilitating mental health condition may not be able to respond to her baby’s needs and have thoughts about harming herself and her little one. In the worst-case scenario, she may even act on those feelings.

          “It can also limit the joy you’d feel with your child and a child’s early attachment to their mother can affect how they attach to others later in life,” she adds.

Read on for handy hints on dealing with your negative emotions…