The Difference Between Postpartum Blues, Depression, And Psychosis

Pregnancy and childbirth are times in a woman’s life characterized by change. This not only extends to physical changes, but emotional and hormonal changes. The postpartum period is most likely to be when a woman is at her most vulnerable, mainly because of these aforementioned changes. As the body adjusts during the postpartum period, the flux of hormones can affect the mental and emotional state of a new mother to varying degrees. 

The effect of these hormones in itself is a normal (and even expected!) biological process, but there are instances where the effect is more severe and impacts the mental well-being of a woman. In these cases, it is imperative to know the signs of when a doctor should be consulted for treatment. Without treatment, these mood disturbances can have long lasting effects on both mother and child. 

So what are the different hormone-induced mood disturbances and their signs?


Postpartum blues, also known as the “baby blues”  is associated with fluctuating moods, anxiety, weepiness, or irritability that presents after giving birth. 

  • Mood swings
  • Feeling sad, anxious, or overwhelmed
  • Crying spells
  • Decreased appetite
  • Difficulties sleeping

These symptoms will likely last for two weeks and subside as the body adjusts its hormone levels. This is an incredibly common condition that is experienced by most women who give birth. 


Postpartum depression can happen at any time during the first year after giving birth; however, it typically emerges around the first two months. The symptoms may at first appear to be the “baby blues” but do not subside with time. The following symptoms are what can help define postpartum depression from the blues. 

  • Chronic feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Profound feelings of failure as a mother
  • Loss of interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
  • Intense feelings of despair that interfere with daily responsibilities and self-care (eating, sleeping, etc)
  • Panic and anxiety attacks
  • Thoughts of harming self or their baby
  • Withdrawing from partner and/or other close relationships.
  • Difficulties in bonding with the baby as a result of these symptoms

Postpartum depression typically does not go away without medical attention. A doctor will likely prescribe an antidepressant to be taken for a period of time. Without treatment, there can be long-lasting negative effects for both mother and child.


Postpartum psychosis is relatively rare, occurring in about 1 out of every 1,000 births. However, it is more severe than postpartum depression. The symptoms usually emerge within the first few days or weeks after delivery and are characterized by the severe, often shocking, mood shifts that are similar to rapid-cycling bipolar moods.

Symptoms may start off similar to those seen in baby blues and postpartum depression, but the following signs are what set postpartum psychosis apart.

  • Initial restlessness, irritability, or insomnia that is accompanied by severe and sudden shifts in mood. 
  • Some women can experience hallucinations (these frequently involve with violence to themselves and others, including their baby). 
  • Feeling confusion and exhibiting disoriented behavior
  • Rapid mood swings similar to bipolar disorder
  • Attempts to harm self or baby

The behavior demonstrated is usually a sudden departure from the individual’s previous functioning persona. She may exhibit paranoia, grandeur, and even delusions and disorganized thinking. Women who have bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder have a much higher risk of experiencing postpartum psychosis. If extreme shifts in mood, as listed above, are observed in a woman who has recently given birth, a medical professional should be consulted immediately to ensure the safety of both mother and child.

The differences between the postpartum “baby blues”, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis can be easily discerned as a gradient of increasingly serious symptoms. While these conditions can be concerning, they are all easily recognized and treated by a doctor.

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At Women’s Healthcare Associates we have a goal to provide you with one of the best experiences in women’s care in the greater Amarillo area. Our professional Staff offers personal care that focuses on the health and well-being of our patients as individuals. Our Services include comprehensive healthcare specialized just for women, prenatal and pregnancy care, digital mammography, bone density screening, ultrasound, contraception, menopause and more. For more information about how our comprehensive women’s healthcare can help you, Contact Us through here or please give us a call at (806) 355-6330.

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