Most expectant moms have heard of the baby blues—mood swings and crying in the weeks after bringing their newborn home. Postpartum depression, a more serious condition, can be debilitating and long-lasting. But a smaller number of women report a very different experience: a state of euphoria sometimes referred to as “the baby pinks.” And it’s more than simply feeling overjoyed in the early days with your new baby.
The baby pinks is not a formal diagnosable condition, says psychiatrist Ariel Dalfen, head of the perinatal mental health program at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. But it does have a clinical term—hypomania. In the UK, the baby pinks are sometimes called “the highs.” Symptoms typically appear in the first few days after childbirth. Women who’ve experienced mood disorders before getting pregnant are at a higher risk of developing the baby pinks. According to one study in The British Journal of Psychiatry, the baby pinks, followed by a period of depression, can also turn into a form of mild bipolar disorder later on.
What are the signs?
A mom with the baby pinks might feel great initially, but she eventually becomes irritable — the transition varies with every woman, says Dalfen. It’s important that a partner keep an eye out for possible symptoms, because women with hypomania will feel as though they’re on top of the world. Warning signs include becoming very task-oriented (yet so distracted that those tasks often end up uncompleted), feeling euphoric, becoming more talkative than normal and not needing to sleep. “If a woman is not sleeping at all for several days on end, sometimes her behaviour becomes really bizarre,” explains Dalfen. “Some women will think they have special powers or feel like superwoman, and that they’re the best mom ever.”
When to seek treatment?
“If a new mom is just feeling a sense of elation, that doesn’t necessarily need to be treated,” says Maya Hammer, a Toronto psychotherapist in private practice who specializes in perinatal mental health. “But if a woman is exhibiting signs and symptoms that are extremely odd, she shouldn’t be left alone with the baby and should be taken to the nearest emergency room.” Some women may need medication to treat insomnia and other symptoms. In all cases, it’s important to make sure there’s a strong support network in place to help moms rest, and to stay in touch with health-care providers who will ensure treatment is working.
Toronto mom Liz Hysen would easily describe the first one or two months after she gave birth to both of her children, Leon and Louise, as amazing. She was excessively happy. “It was an almost addictive feeling,” she says. But Hysen never developed any other potential symptoms of the baby pinks. She considers herself lucky — the early days were easier for her than for a lot of new moms. In fact, she says she has a hard time relating to women who felt horrible postpartum. Both experiences are very normal. But whether you feel great or weepy — or are not sure how you feel — it’s important to take care of yourself, talk about how you are doing and surround yourself with people who will help you. As Dalfen says, “It’s always better to tell your health-care provider about any changes to normal functioning in the postpartum period than to wait around for them to disappear.”
Originally posted in December 2012.