Postpartum Blues or Exhaustion?

January 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Ask Dr. Vicki, Family, Parenting

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postpartum blues

Dear Dr. Vicki:

I’m a new mom of Kay, 3 mos.  I’m also a working mom.  Since my maternal leave is over, I’ve been feeling so worn out.  I also feel shock for this overwhelmed feeling. What should I do?  Shouldn’t a mother feel happy always for the presence of the new baby? Why am I always drowning with the overwhelmed feeling?  Really need your advice…

-New Mom-

Dr. Vicki’s response:

Dear New Mom:

Some people would say you have the postpartum blues.  But, I think it may be postpartum exhaustion and new mother guilt!

First of all, you are “should-ing” all over yourself!  And there are no “shoulds.”  You are allowed to feel any way you feel.  Which, by the way, is very common in new moms whether they have postpartum blues or not.

You have just been through a tremendous trauma—yes, giving birth is trauma to your body.  And, although it’s a happy one, it’s still trauma.  Your body is exhausted and needs time to recover.  And, on top of that, there is often a huge emotional let-down from the hormonal and emotional build up that happens before the birth.

Then, you have tremendous adjustment to caring for a newborn—which generally involves giving up a huge amount of sleep.  So, you are recovering from physical trauma and are terribly sleep deprived.  Is this really postpartum blues or physical exhaustion? I don’t know of any new mother who doesn’t feel exhausted! Not to mention returning to work and functioning all day on too little sleep!

It sounds to me as though you are very physically and emotionally depleted, and your overwhelm certainly doesn’t have anything to do with your love or care for Kay.  And, if you are throwing in a heaping helping of new mother guilt, you are making yourself even more stressed and worn out.  Whether this is postpartum blues or serious exhaustion, you need time to recover; going back to work will make you even more exhausted and recovery period can be longer.

Seek assistance from your partner, friends, family members for some of the care of the baby so that you are assured a certain amount of sleep.  If you are nursing, then someone can either bring the baby to you without your having to get up at night, or they can feed her with bottles filled with pimped breast milk for night-time feedings.  Once you have regained a more rested self and adjusted to returning to work and caring for a newborn when you get home, I am sure that you will feel less overwhelmed with stress and more overwhelmed with love and joy for being with your baby.  In the meantime, give yourself permission to feel exhausted and not very happy and get yourself a good night’s sleep.

If you continue to feel overwhelmed with stress and not feeling happy with your baby, consult your physician to determine whether you are experiencing sleep deprivation or postpartum blues or even depression.

Keep me posted!

Dr. Vicki

What do you think?  Have you felt overwhelmed after giving birth?

Please feel free to leave a comment about postpartum blues vs. exhaustion in the box below.


2 Responses to “Postpartum Blues or Exhaustion?”
  1. Your response is very thoughtful and caring. I just want people to know that males are also prone to postpartum depression and exhaustion. Although they may not go through the physical “trauma” labor entails many man experience similar signs of depression and exhaustion. In one study, “How common is depression among new dads?
    James Paulson of the Eastern Virginia Medical School analyzed data from 43 previous studies (which had collectively examined 28,004 men), and concluded that about 10.4 percent suffered from depression between the first trimester of their wives’ pregnancy and their babies’ first birthdays. That’s a little more than double the rate of depression among men, generally.


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  1. says:

    Postpartum Blues or Exhaustion? : Better Parenting Institute…

    I’m a new mom of Kay, 3mos. I’m also a working mom. Since my maternal leave is over, I’ve been feeling so worn out. I also feel shock for this overwhelmed feeling. What should I do? Shouldn’t a mother feel happy always for the presence of the new b…