Althought Therapy

Postpartum Blues: Navigating Hormonal and Emotional Shifts

Bringing a brand-new baby into the world triggers a cascade of wonderful and challenging experiences. The heightened sense of love and connection can be awe-inspiring, yet sometimes the lows can be overwhelming. It doesn’t help that we live in a culture that promotes independence to the point of making us feel inadequate when we can’t ‘do it all’ or guilty for asking for help. We may also feel guilty for not feeling connected to our baby, or for struggling more with taking care of our newborn than we expected, and we might not want to admit this to anyone. Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, you are not alone.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, 70 – 80% of all new mothers experience the ‘baby blues’ within the first 14 days after giving birth. That’s an overwhelming majority! Why isn’t this talked about more? Why isn’t it normalized in our culture and society? The truth is, it is real, and it affects most mothers—and that is normal. You are not strange, and nothing is wrong with you for feeling down, fatigued, or having crying bouts. Baby blues affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, races, ages, educational levels, and cultures. So, what are the baby blues, and what do they feel like?

Postpartum Blues

What do postpartum blues feel like?

Mothers are most likely to notice baby blues about four to five days after having their baby. As a reference, this is a couple of days after coming home from the hospital, depending on how your delivery went.

Common Symptoms: 

  • Weepiness or crying for no apparent reason
  • Impatience
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia (even when the baby is sleeping)
  • Sadness
  • Mood changes or feeling grumpy
  • Poor concentration


Typically, baby blues resolve on their own without any treatment, usually within a few days to two weeks. However, if your symptoms persist for more than two weeks or if you experience a more severe form, known as postpartum depression, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider.

What causes baby blues?

The cause of baby blues is unclear and not fully understood. However, it is believed that both physiological and emotional changes contribute to the condition.

Hormonal and Physiological Changes

The most abundant hormone during pregnancy is progesterone. Early in pregnancy, progesterone helps develop the placenta, which, once developed, becomes the main producer of progesterone itself. Progesterone is crucial for nourishing the developing fetus and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. However, after birth, progesterone levels drop dramatically, which could contribute to the baby blues. Additionally, allopregnanolone, a metabolite of progesterone that decreases feelings of irritability, also decreases when progesterone levels drop after pregnancy. This leads many researchers to believe that the reduction in allopregnanolone contributes to increased irritability levels following pregnancy.

A physiological trade-off occurs in women immediately after delivery. The hormone estradiol, which supports lactation (the ability to breastfeed), decreases. Higher levels of estradiol naturally help regulate serotonin levels, which can reduce depressive symptoms. Therefore, when estradiol levels fall during the postpartum period, the body’s natural ability to regulate serotonin levels—and thus depression symptoms—is compromised. This hormonal chain of reactions is thought to contribute to feelings of sadness or even postpartum depression.

Considering postpartum baby blues from a purely physiological standpoint, two important hormones that support a healthy pregnancy—progesterone and estradiol—drop considerably right after birth. These hormones influence levels of irritability and depressive symptoms. It’s no wonder then that 70-80% of women experience feelings of irritability and sadness. Remember, these hormonal changes and shifts are a natural part of the transition from childbirth to postpartum and are necessary for a healthy recovery. Experiencing mood swings, crying spells, and feelings of sadness or slight disconnection are all normal responses to the changes occurring within our bodies during the postpartum period.

Emotional Changes

Adjusting to life with a newborn, whether it’s your first baby or you’re bringing your newborn home to siblings, involves significant changes. Your newborn is completely dependent on you, which can feel like an enormous responsibility. You are also getting to know your brand-new baby, and they are learning about the world around them for the very first time. They are not yet accustomed to all of the sights and sounds around them and rely on you and your support team for comfort and emotional regulation.

Oftentimes, new moms feel the burden of responsibility. They stay at home with their newborn all day yet feel like they aren’t ‘doing anything.’ Many women report that, although they are taking care of their baby, they feel bothered by the fact that they haven’t been able to wash the dishes piling up in the sink or finish a load of laundry. These tasks can accumulate, creating a sense of unease and unproductivity. Being pulled out of our normal routine and feeling too exhausted to complete our usual daily tasks can feel like a failure, but if you zoom out to the big picture, this is only a fraction of time. You are being productive. Taking care of your baby is the most important responsibility, and allowing yourself time to enjoy the bonding experience, as well as rest when your baby rests, is extremely important.

Another important factor that can contribute to the baby blues is a lack of sleep. Even without the adjustments of bringing home a newborn, lack of sleep is a known cause of lethargy, difficulty thinking, irritability, depression, anxiousness, stress, low motivation, and even paranoia. Getting as much sleep as you can after bringing home your newborn is a great way to help prevent the baby blues and postpartum depression.

What can you do about the baby blues?

Ensuring the well-being of the mother is the most effective way to alleviate symptoms of postpartum baby blues. Taking prenatal vitamins, such as Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, and DHA, before delivery can lower the risk of preterm birth and reduce the risk of postpartum depression. Additionally, Omega-3s can decrease the risk of Type 1 Diabetes in children. There are several ways to take care of yourself during this challenging period.

Ways to Reduce Baby Blues:

  • Get as much sleep as possible
  • Lean on your support system (partner, family, and friends). Be specific about how they can help you such as going food shopping, cleaning the house, or watching the baby while you take a nap.
  • Get outside if possible. Sunshine is a natural way of getting vitamin D, which helps boost mood
  • Connect with other new parents. Look for a local or virtual support group
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Don’t drink alcohol
  • Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings
  • Don’t expect yourself to be perfect
  • Take short breaks away from the baby
  • Set small goals for yourself
  • Trust your instincts
  • Realize that there will be some good days and some days that are harder
  • Don’t compare yourself to others
  • Don’t blame yourself
  • Realize you are doing the best you can
  • Give yourself permission to have negative thoughts and feelings- these are all normal! It is okay to not feel “good” every moment of the day. 
  • Try to reduce your guilt
  • Remember, adjustments take time

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if you experience any symptoms of baby blues or postpartum depression, particularly if your symptoms include:

  • Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Don’t get better after two weeks
  • Get worse
  • Make it hard for you to take care of your baby
  • Make it hard to do everyday chores