Winter Blues and Baby Blues: Can they lead to postpartum depression?

Author: Author: Gaby Mendez-Hillis, LCSW, PMH-C, social worker, case manager, Providence Beginnings, Providence Women’s Clinic

During winter months when the days are shorter and darker, both postpartum depression and baby blues may be more difficult. Some birthing parents may already have a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which makes them prone to depression in the fall and winter months. This could be considered a risk factor for postpartum depression. Parents might feel more isolated after the birth of a baby since it is harder to get out with a newborn baby during the winter months versus another time of the year. It can also feel challenging to connect with others because of the time of year, making one of life’s major transitions more challenging.

Encouraging patients to have a solid postpartum plan after the birth of a baby can help. Identifying resources and support early on can help them navigate what is ahead in that fourth trimester. This is especially important if your patient is having a baby during the winter months where they may struggle with SAD or just feeling down. With support and the right interventions, patients can decrease the severity and length of symptoms.

About 80% of birthing parents experience baby blues so it can be very normal. It can come up and resolve all within two weeks after delivery. The baby blues can be an intense level of emotions often similar to postpartum depression or anxiety, but the main difference is the time period of when it occurs and resolves. Postpartum depression is more severe and can occur within four weeks or several months after delivery and can last up to one year along with other perinatal mood disorders.

According to the CDC, four in five pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. are preventable. One of the leading underlying causes of pregnancy-related deaths includes mental health conditions at 23%, compared to bleeding 14%, cardiac conditions 13%, cardiomyopathy, embolism, and infection at 9% each, and hypertension disorders 7%. As clinicians, we can help birthing parents and their support systems identify early warning signs and we can implement screening tools relevant to the perinatal period. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is commonly used to screen for any indications that a birthing individual might be struggling.

Providence Beginnings is a team of licensed clinical social workers and nurses that supports patients during their pregnancy and up to two months postpartum. They provide perinatal resources and case management support. The Providence Beginnings team is embedded within all Providence Women’s Clinics and some Providence Medical Group clinics. Ask your clinic team if this support is available for your patients. 

Providence also offers a free virtual monthly Pregnancy and Postpartum Emotional Health Workshop available to all patients. Providence Beginnings is currently piloting a four-week virtual group developed by researchers at OHSU and led by trained licensed clinical social workers to prepare prenatal patients for the emotional changes common in a pregnancy and to help them identify early warning signs of perinatal mental health disorders and learn mindfulness-based coping skills. These groups are currently only available at Providence Women’s Clinics.

For more information about Providence Beginnings, learn more here.

Register now: Emotional Health Workshop (March 25, 2024)

For more on postpartum depression (KPTV):

About the Author

The inScope content team focuses on bringing you the latest in clinical news from our team of world-class medical providers and physician leaders.

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