Childbirth is often thought of as a very happy and joyful time. After all, bringing a child into the world is considered by many to be one of the greatest, most remarkable journeys.
Unfortunately, the days following delivery aren’t always full of those happy, feel-good moments. Within 2-3 days after delivery, some women become sad, tearful and moody. This is likely a completely normal case of baby blues.
“Baby blues” is a term that refers to a feeling of sadness, disappointment, moodiness, or irritability after giving birth. These feelings are quite common, with some sources stating that as many as 4 in 5, or 80% of all women experience this. Baby blues can occur a few days after giving birth and last about a week or two.
If these feelings persist for more than two weeks, it’s possible you’ve developed postpartum depression (PPD). PPD is a very serious condition that requires treatment, so it’s best to reach out to your healthcare team right away.
Do Surrogate Mothers Experience This Kind Of Phenomena Too ?
Surrogates are no exception to experiencing baby blues following the birth. They, too, can experience bouts of sadness and moodiness. Like any other pregnancy, a gestational carrier will also undergo a great deal of hormone changes before and after childbirth. Once hormone levels drop following delivery, it’s common to experience mood swings. It can be quite an emotional rollercoaster for some, and that is completely normal.
The surrogacy journey is an experience that typically brings the surrogate a great sense of pride and self-worth. After delivery, however, a gestational carrier can go from feeling proud and joyful to being overwhelmed with unexplained sadness.
Baby blues can cause a person to suddenly cry for no apparent reason. It is thought that some sadness may stem from the ending of their surrogacy journey. When you think about it, surrogates are often the center of the intended parents’ world throughout the entire pregnancy. That’s almost a whole year that the surrogate and intended parents share a very close relationship. However, after delivery this suddenly comes to a halt as their attention and focus shifts to their newborn baby.
Symptoms To Look Out For?
There are a number of general symptoms one could have when experiencing baby blues after giving birth. Let’s cover some of the common symptoms associated with baby blues.
It’s possible to feel as though you’re unable to wait for someone or something. In some situations, you might feel as though the baby is taking up a lot of your time and you no longer have time left for yourself. A gestational surrogate may be impatient to hear news or updates from the intended parents, or she may be anxious to get back home to her own children.
You might become frustrated or angry over little things. Getting irritated with the baby for not eating or sleeping properly is a common occurrence with baby blues. Irritability directed at your partner or older children is also quite common.
This occurs when you’re unable to sit still or rest comfortably. Often due to hormones, you may feel unable to relax those first few days despite being exhausted.
Frequently worrying and becoming stressed over minor things is typical with baby blues. Due to stress levels going up, it’s possible to feel anxious about nearly everything.
Childbirth can be quite an emotional rollercoaster along with physically exhausting. Therefore, you might feel overcome with extreme tiredness from mental and physical exertion.
With baby blues, you might feel restless and unable to sleep, even though you’re very tired. When you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s easy to become moody and irritable, making your symptoms of baby blues even worse.
Having frequent tearful and unhappy episodes can be indicative of baby blues. The smallest of things might cause you to tear up thanks to the shift in hormones.
The big drop in hormone levels and potentially lack of sleep can cause abrupt changes in mood. You might feel over-the-moon excited at one moment and completely irritated and sad the next.
Having trouble thinking clearly or making simple decisions is common with baby blues. You might experience brain fog and lose the ability to focus for a longer time span.
It’s important to note that the symptoms associated with baby blues don’t typically last long. In many cases, they begin just a few days following delivery and resolve without treatment within two weeks. If symptoms last longer than two weeks, reach out to your doctor or midwife, as you could be developing postpartum depression (PPD).
The exact cause of baby blues hasn’t been determined by doctors. However, some believe that the extreme drop in hormone levels after delivery is a big contributor. The hormonal changes allow for the uterus to return to its normal size and even promotes lactation. However, it causes some significant mood swings as your body works to regulate hormone levels.
Another possible culprit is the lack of sleep that new parents experience in those initial days and weeks. Frequent wakings and disrupted sleep patterns, combined with hormone changes, creates a perfect storm for baby blues to develop.
While a gestational surrogate won’t be handling newborn days herself, her postpartum period can be an emotional rollercoaster in its own right. As the exciting and fulfilling journey of being a surrogate comes to a close, you’ll likely have many emotions ranging from extreme pride and happiness to feeling a sense of loss. Often, surrogates have gotten very close with their intended parents, so there is sadness that comes with the abrupt change in relationship.
The bond you have formed with the intended parents and the frequent contact you’ve had with them suddenly ends after delivery. Sure, there may be text updates or even video calls, but not nearly as frequently. For nearly a year, you’ve been working towards this remarkable goal and achievement that is over in a matter of minutes. It’s important to realize that it’s completely normal to have these feelings. We suggest reaching out to your support system or a counselor to process your feelings.
Are Treatments Available?
Though there are no actual treatment options available for baby blues, there are a number of things you can do to feel more like yourself again.
- Rest, Rest, Rest – Be sure you are getting plenty of rest. We understand this is easier said than done, but it really is an important part of improving both your mental and physical well-being. Catch a nap when you can. Trust us, the laundry and dishes can wait. Kick those feet up and get some rest!
- Talk it out – Talk to someone close to you about how you’re feeling. This could be a friend, spouse, or therapist. Sometimes just talking about what you’re going through will make you feel better. Many of our surrogates turn to online communities of current and past surrogates. It helps to talk with other women who “get it”.
- Eat well – You might be surprised at how much a healthy well-balanced diet can impact your overall health. Staying hydrated and eating well can make a significant difference in your mental health and energy levels throughout the day.
- Ask for help – It really is ok to ask for help. You don’t have to do it all. Reach out to friends and family as they will most likely be more than happy to help out.
- Do what you love – We know this is also a challenging one to find time for, but it really is important. Schedule time for those things that make you feel happy and relaxed. You deserve it!
These treatment options can do wonders for anyone dealing with baby blues – including surrogates. As challenging as it might be, it really is important to take the time to care for yourself.
How Long Does It Last?
The length of time you’ll have baby blues tends to vary from person to person. However, in most cases symptoms will appear 2-3 days after delivery and last about a week or two.
If you notice that your symptoms just aren’t going away, it’s important to seek help and guidance from your healthcare team. The general rule of thumb is that if you’re still feeling down after 2 weeks or the symptoms seem to become more intense, you should give your doctor a call.
In these situations, it is possible that you’re actually experiencing postpartum depression which is much more serious and does require treatment. Your doctor will be able to help distinguish between a case of baby blues and postpartum depression.
How Can You Prevent It?
Some studies have shown that taking Omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA during the prenatal period may lower the risk of developing postpartum baby blues or depression. This can sometimes be provided through certain prenatal vitamins.
Studies have shown that including Omega-3 fats in your diet can lessen your chances of experiencing baby blues. Omega-3s are typically found in fish, salmon, cod, tuna and sardines. For those that don’t regularly eat these types of foods, supplements are also an option. According to Mayo Clinic, Omega-3 fatty acids help to promote baby’s brain development as well.
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) is considered an “essential fatty acid” because they must be obtained from diet as the body is unable to synthesize them. This is best consumed through supplements.
Like EPA, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is also an “essential fatty acid”. It is often recommended that a pregnant or lactating woman should consume 450 mg of DHA daily. Most prenatal vitamins include DHA.
How To Take Care Of Yourself
There are a number of things you can do to take care of yourself while experiencing baby blues. For example, talking with someone close to you and maintaining a balanced diet can be helpful.
As we discussed earlier, there are multiple ways to care for yourself when dealing with baby blues. By doing so, you will most likely move past those blues much faster.
Here are some good examples:
- Accept help from others
- Get plenty of rest
- Talk to loved ones
- Drink plenty of water and eat well
- Take a break to do something enjoyable and relaxing
If you are experiencing baby blues as a gestational surrogate, reach out to your agency team. At Family Inceptions, we make every effort to support our surrogates every step of the way, including the postpartum period.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Baby blues are quite common and should typically go away after a week or two. If they persist longer or seem to worsen, it’s important that you reach out to your doctor. It is possible that you’re suffering from postpartum depression which can be quite serious. According to Mayo Clinic, your doctor will be able to distinguish between baby blues or postpartum depression by talking with you about your feelings, thoughts and mental health.
The symptoms of postpartum depression are very similar to those of baby blues, except they’re more severe and last much longer. If you’re diagnosed with postpartum depression, there are a couple different treatment options to get you feeling like yourself again. Your doctor may suggest psychotherapy which would allow you to talk through your concerns with a mental health professional. Antidepressant medications are another treatment option that would be considered.
The Difference Between Postpartum Depression And Baby Blues?
Because the symptoms can mimic each other, you might be wondering how to tell the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression (PPD).
Let’s compare the two:
- When does it occur?
Baby blues – Usually between delivery and 4 weeks following
PPD – Usually between delivery and one year following
- How long does it last?
Baby blues – Resolves on its own within two weeks (no treatment needed)
PPD – Lasts longer than 2 weeks and requires treatment
- How common is it?
Baby blues – 4 out of 5 (up to 80%) of women experience baby blues after giving birth
PPD – An average of about 11% of women are diagnosed with PPD following delivery
- What are the symptoms?
Baby blues – sadness, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, frequent crying, fatigue, insomnia
PPD – Feeling sad, hopeless, overwhelmed, insomnia, anger or rage, irritability, restlessness, worrying or feeling overly anxious, trouble concentrating, thoughts of harming herself or baby, losing interest in things that were usually enjoyable, crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason.
If you are unsure whether or not you’re experiencing baby blues or postpartum depression, it’s always a good idea to reach out to your doctor for guidance.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
As we have mentioned, baby blues are quite common after childbirth and can be experienced by surrogates just as commonly as by birthing mothers. Rest assured that these symptoms are only temporary and you should feel like yourself again within a week or two.
It’s important to take care of yourself in order to diminish the symptoms of baby blues. Our best advice — take time away to do something you love, curl up in a blanket and rest, chat with a close friend or family member, and most importantly just take care of you. Be sure to advocate for yourself and ask your partner, friend, or a family member to handle the household while you take a nap.
Like the old saying says, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” You won’t be able to give or care for others unless you make the time to care for yourself first. Your physical and mental health will thank you. Remember, if your symptoms last more than 2 weeks or become severe, give your doctor a call.
Learn more about childbirth and dig deeper into baby blues here.