The Partner Checklist: Know the Difference between Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

You’d think that the crippling sleep deprivation, unremitting barrage of bodily projectile emissions and bomb-blasted chaos that was once your pristine abode would be enough to deal with when it comes to adjusting to life with a newborn — but nope; there’s more. And it can all be less easy to spot than the now commonplace stains of indeterminate origin on every one of your favourite shirts. Or that interesting new kitchen installation aka the mountain of dishes growing to Pisa-esque proportions in the sink.

Upset couple

Baby blues are a common experience amongst new mothers. The maternal psyche undergoes some serious attack during those early months thanks to exhaustion, hormonal shifts, and the sudden weight of responsibility that comes with being the irrevocable custodian of a human entity other than oneself.

Use these signposts to gauge whether your partner is fighting through the trenches of newbie mummyhood (and give her plenty support, offers to hoover, and back rubs through it):

  • Generalised irritability
  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of appetite

When attempting to home-diagnose the nature of your partner’s negative headspace, it can be tough because baby blues symptoms closely mirror those of depression – so it’s easy to assume postpartum depression (PPD) is the real culprit, What you need to remember is that the key difference between blues and PPD is that baby blues usually resolve themselves within a few days.

PPD, on the other hand, is a much more severe and intense version of the above markers. It’s also often accompanied by a sense of inadequacy and feelings of guilt – so don’t expect your partner to seek you out with a list of her symptoms; check her yourself for the following red flags:

  • Severe mood swings and excessive crying
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Intense anger
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • An inability to think clearly or make decisions

Another major warning sign is any talk of being “a bad mother” or the typical depressive suicidal ideation phrase: “the family would be better off without me”.

If you suspect your baby mama is suffering through either of the above, don’t wait to see if things get better; talk with her, and enlist the help of professionals who can accurately determine whether she’s just going through the standard (although totally rubbish) rite of parental passage, or if there’s a more serious condition to be treated. It will ultimately benefit the whole family. (Although you’ll still have to eventually do something about those dishes.)