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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.
St. Clair Child and Youth Services
Postpartum Support International
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.
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.