Postpartum Depression and other Perinatal Mood Disorders

Talking about prenatal and perinatal mood disorders like depression and anxiety is important. For starters, it is much more common to experience postpartum depression than it is to seek help for postpartum depression. As we talk more and more about mood disorders, the odds increase that women who experience depression and anxiety will get help and improve their well-being and their quality of life. Let’s talk about postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is generally thought to occur within a year of having a baby. Women who experience postpartum depression say they have some or all of the following signs and symptoms, most of the time, for a while:

  • Feeling overwhelmed. “I’ll never be able to handle being a mother
  • Feeling guilty. “My baby deserves better”
  • Feeling hopeless. “I’m a failure”
  • Feeling detached from their baby. “I don’t know if I love her”
  • Feeling angry, irritated or annoyed. “WHY won’t you stop crying?!”
  • Feeling confused. “Why is this happening?”
  • Feeling sad. “I don’t even know why I’m crying, but I can’t stop”
  • Feeling empty. “I’m just going through the motions every day”
  • Thinking about quitting or running away. “I quit, I need to get out of here”
  • Thinking about harming themselves. “If I was gone, my baby would be better off”
  • Feeling afraid of judgement or punishment if they reach out for help
  • Not being able to focus
  • Sleeping very little or sleeping too much
  • Eating very little or eating too much

Untreated postpartum depression can be dangerous. If you’re experiencing some or all of these signs and symptoms, speak to your care provider or another person you trust. Although it might feel hopeless right now, there are many safe and effective treatment options.

Other Perinatal Mood Disorders You Should Know About

Postpartum Anxiety often co-occurs with depression but sometimes it occurs on its own. Some research is even pointing to the possibility that postpartum anxiety is more common than postpartum depression. Women who experience postpartum anxiety say they have some or all of the following:

  • Worrying constantly; fixating on the worst-case scenario
  • Having intense fear
  • Avoiding certain places, situations or people
  • Physical symptoms: rapid heart rate, dizziness, nausea, sore stomach, muscle tension

Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is often associated with postpartum anxiety. Women who experience postpartum OCD typically develop rituals or compulsions to help them cope with their constant feelings of being worried or afraid or having racing thoughts.

Depression and Anxiety During Pregnancy

It is thought to be just as common to have depression and anxiety during pregnancy as it is to have them during the postpartum period. If you’re pregnant and experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, you are not alone. Speak with your care provider. If you want to read more about anxiety during pregnancy, check out this post I wrote.

It Is Not Your Fault.

If you suffer from a mood disorder during or after your pregnancy, it can feel like you’ve done something wrong. It can feel like everyone else is handling things better than you are. It can feel like you don’t love your baby enough to “snap out of it”. It can also feel like you shouldn’t talk about what’s going on; this is because depression and anxiety are dirty liars. They tell you that you that you don’t need help or, even worse, that you aren’t worthy of help. It is NOT your fault. It is not because you don’t love your baby.

Check out these beautiful, strong and inspiring mothers who fought back against their depression and anxiety and participated in a video project to spread the word.

Local Resources in Halton, Hamilton and Peel Regions

If you live in or are planning to deliver your baby in Oakville, Milton, Halton Hills or Mississauga, you can receive care at the Women’s Reproductive Mental Health Program at Trillium Health Partners. Speak to your care provider (your family doctor, obstetrician or midwife) if you’re interested; referrals to this program need to come from a health care professional.

In Burlington, Joseph Brant Hospital provides support through Community Mental Health Services. A doctor or counselor’s referral is required.

If you’re in Hamilton or Burlington, you can get help from the Women’s Health Concerns Clinic at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. You don’t need a professional’s referral to this program; you can refer yourself by contacting the clinic.

Free walk-in counseling is also available through the Canadian Mental Health Association – Halton Region Branch.

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