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Baby blues

7-minute read

If you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for immediate support.

Key facts:

  • The term ‘baby blues’ refers to a time of mood swings and other feelings that are very common in the first week after your baby is born.
  • Your changing hormone levels during and after birth, as well as your labour and birth experience are thought to play a role in baby blues.
  • Unlike ‘baby blues’, postnatal depression lasts longer, is more severe, and doesn’t usually go away without help.
  • It’s important to seek help if you are struggling after your baby is born — it’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed, and there’s no need to feel ashamed.
  • Your doctor or healthcare nurse can give you advice about support and treatment that may be right for you.

What are the 'baby blues'?

The term ‘baby blues’ refers to an episode of mood swings and other feelings that often occur in the first week after your baby is born.

Baby blues are very common — about 4 in every 5 new mums go through this in the first week or so after having a baby, most often 3 to 5 days after the birth.

While no one really knows why you experience these feelings after having a baby, many doctors think it has to do with rapidly changing hormone levels that happen during birth and soon after birth.

Your labour and birth experience may also play a role in baby blues.

What are some of the signs of baby blues?

Signs and symptoms of baby blues include mood swings, tearfulness, feeling anxious, stressed or overwhelmed. You may also find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, even when your baby is settled.

How long will the baby blues last?

The baby blues usually pass quite quickly. If your symptoms persist for 2 weeks or more and are very intense, this may mean that what you are experiencing is perinatal depression, rather than the baby blues. In this situation, speak with your doctor or maternal health nurse.

How can I help myself get through the baby blues?

There are things you can do to get you through this challenging time. It’s especially important to look after your physical and mental health. Here are some tips that might help:

  • accept practical help and emotional support from friends and friends
  • try and keep to a healthy, nutritious diet
  • keep active and maintain your social connections
  • take opportunities to sleep when your baby is settled or sleeping
  • use stress-management techniques, such as muscle relaxation and deep breathing
  • give yourself a break from housework for a while — you and your baby are the priority, while the house chores can wait

It can be especially difficult to establish and maintain a healthy lifestyle while recovering from birth and looking after a new baby. There is no shame in asking for and accepting help from family and friends. Self-care is important to keep yourself physically and mentally healthy. Plus, if you look after yourself, your whole family will benefit — especially your new baby.

Listen to Dianne Zalitis, midwife, talk to Feed Play Love with Shevonne Hunt about what to expect when you bring your baby home.

What is the difference between ‘baby blues’ and postnatal depression?

If you have ‘baby blues’ you may feel moody, anxious, tearful or have difficulty sleeping. Although these feelings can be challenging, they usually pass quickly on their own with no special treatment.

In postnatal depression, your symptoms last longer (more than 2 weeks), may be more severe and often interfere with your ability to function normally. Unlike ‘baby blues’, postnatal depression doesn’t usually go away on its own. This can be especially tough to cope with when you are recovering from birth and have a new baby to look after.

It can be hard to know if what you’re feeling is normal or might be the start of something more serious. If you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor or midwife.

Do I need to see a doctor if I have the baby blues?

It is reassuring to know that the symptoms of the baby blues usually pass on their own after a week or so, but if you don’t see any improvement, it’s time to get professional help.

Speak with your GP or local maternal child health and tell them how you are feeling. They can help you figure out if what you are experiencing is the baby blues, or a sign of developing depression or anxiety.

If your symptoms are mild, it might be enough to get extra support from your family, friends and doctor or healthcare nurse. If your symptoms are more significant, your doctor might recommend psychological therapies or medication.

If you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for immediate support.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Where can I go for advice and support?

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2023

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