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Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program

Postpartum Depression

This page was reviewed or revised on Monday, April 27, 2015 11:12 AM

Postpartum depression is a term used to describe a number of emotional problems that can negatively affect a mother or father after the birth or adoption of a baby. It’s a group of symptoms lasting more than 2-6 weeks and affects the ability to cope with daily life. Some women experience it right after birth, but it can happen anytime during the first year. 1 in 5 mothers and 1 in 10 dads suffer from some combination of the following symptoms:

  • persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
  • loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
  • restlessness, irritability, or excessive crying
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism
  • sleeping too much or too little, early-morning awakening
  • appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • decreased energy, fatigue, feeling "slowed down" OR increased energy and feeling "sped up"
  • thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • anger and frustration
  • over concern for OR lack of interest in the baby
  • panic attacks
  • difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • frightening fantasies-thoughts, visual images, sounds or voices and repeated scary  thoughts
  • obsessive compulsive thoughts or actions
  • persistent physical symptoms that don’t respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
  • fear of harming herself or the baby - you must seek immediate help

Risk factors for postpartum depression:

  • personal or family history of psychiatric disorder
  • personal or family history of postpartum emotional disorder
  • marital discord or dissatisfaction; an unsupportive partner, no partner
  • depression during pregnancy
  • lack of social support
  • low income
  • a high needs baby
  • grief/loss issues from the past
  • high concentration of stressful life events (both positive and negative) within the last two years
  • prenatal distress, anxiety, panic, or "pessimism"
  • difficult pregnancy or delivery
  • little or no prior experience with children
  • delivering a premature or handicapped baby
  • difficulty asking for help (the perfectionist or ‘supermom’)
  • teen parent

What to do if you suspect postpartum depression:

  • Don’t blame yourself or the sufferer. This is an illness.
  • Become informed of the signs and symptoms so that you will recognize it.
  • Get help from your health care provider (family physician, midwife, public health nurse, nurse practitioner or psychiatrist).
  • Seek support from the St. Clair Child & Youth Centre 519-337-3701 who have a Post-Partum Adjustment support team.
  • Medication may be necessary for severe depression.
  • Continue treatment until you are well and remember that you will recover. This is not your fault.
  • There is help for you and your family.

Related Websites:

www.lifewithnewbaby.ca

St. Clair Child and Youth Services

Postpartum Support International

Books:

Beltzner, E. Ups and Downs-A New Mother’s Guide. Oakville, Ont: PASS-CAN, 1995.
Dunnewold, A. & Sanford, D. Postpartum Survival Guide: It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 1994.

Pacific Post Partum Support Society. Postpartum Depression & Anxiety: A Self-Help Guide for Mothers. Vancouver, BC: Pacific Post Partum Support Society, 2001.

References:

Handford, P. "Postpartum depression: what is it, what helps?", The Canadian Nurse, January 1985, p. 30-33.

Kryczka, C. "Not Just the Blues. Coping with Postpartum Depression", Great Expectations, Vol. 22, No. 1, January 1993, p. 36-42.

Partridge, K. "Beyond the Baby Blues. Understanding postpartum depression", Today’s Parent, September 1996, p. 84-89.

Stowe, Z,. & C. Nemeroff. "Women at risk for postpartum-onset major depression", Am J Obstet Gynecol, Vol. 173, No. 2, August 1995, p. 639-645.

The National PPSP Advisory Team. Postpartum Parent Support Program. A Newsletter. Winter 1998.