Ever heard of baby blues? It’s not the color you’re painting the nursery. More than 70 percent of women show symptoms of unexplained tearfulness, feelings of being let down, and a decreased appetite after delivering a baby.

“Women have a much higher chance of being admitted to a psychiatric ward after giving birth than any other time in life,” says Cody Bruce, M.S.N., RN, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing in Round Rock.

With several years of professional experience in a clinical psychiatric ward, Bruce has witnessed these symptoms first hand. He has often seen patients experiencing baby blues and in various stages of postpartum depression, and explains several differences between the two.

“Baby blues symptoms typically only last one to two weeks after pregnancy,” says Bruce. “Postpartum depression is different, because women are at risk for up to 12 months after birth.”

Bruce notes these ways to help new moms push through baby blues and return to normalcy:

1. Offer a support system 

Women can feel overwhelmed with the sudden lifestyle changes that encompass motherhood. Simple household tasks can feel more taxing than they previously did. During this period, family members and friends can step in to help complete the housework so the mother can have time to adjust.

“It’s not that these women don’t love their baby,” mentions Bruce. “This new lifestyle just overwhelms them, which is why they really need their family members and friends during this time.”

2. Encourage rest

Many women encounter a wide range of emotions after delivering a baby. Their bodies have experienced a number of hormonal changes over the past several months, which can cause exhaustion over time. Once the excitement and nerves have gone away, their bodies are often begging for more sleep.

3. Keep visitors to a minimum

While many people may be excited to see the baby, it’s important to let the mother and child not only bond, but rest. The shuffling of visitors can cause mothers to feel like they are constantly “on.” Space out visits with family and friends so mother and child don’t feel too overwhelmed right after delivery.

4. Watch for signs of postpartum depression

Both women and their families should observe if tearfulness, feelings of being overwhelmed, or a variety of other symptoms  last longer than two weeks after giving birth.

Some of the first signs of postpartum depression include having thoughts of harming yourself or the baby. If you notice these signs, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. If left untreated, it could leave both the mother and child in a highly dangerous situation.

“In the end, it’s important to give the mom as much love and support as possible—for the benefit of both herself and the baby,” says Bruce.

— Kendall Cherry

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