It is often very difficult to determine if what you’re experiencing is the “normal” Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression. To help untangle this misunderstood issue, I would like to offer some tips to help you determine what you are actually experiencing.
To start, I would like to clarify the difference between Mental Health and Mental Illness:
Mental Health – "normal" ups and downs
Mental Illness – are patterns of thinking, behaviours and/or mood states that affect your day to day activities. Mental Illness can be diagnosed or not, and treated or not.
Perinatal mental illness is the #1 complication of pregnancy.
Having a baby can be challenging, both physically and emotionally, for anyone, and it is natural to experience mood swings (“Baby Blues”).
However, you can successfully face these challenges with the following tips and understanding what you are really experiencing.
- Is experienced by 40%-85% of birthing people within the first 2 weeks after birth. It usually peaks at 3-5 days after birth.
- It happens due to the hormonal changes that are taking place in the birthing person's body plus having a baby to care for.
- It only lasts for up to 2 weeks.
- When experienced, people have the following symptoms:
What a person most needs during this period is support from a partner, family member or friend, along with an adequate amount of rest.
- Occurs to 14-20% of new birthing parents worldwide (1 in 5-7 people). In Canada, According to Statistics Canada in the last survey done around Maternal Mental Health (2018/2019):
"Almost one-quarter (23%) of mothers who recently gave birth reported feelings consistent with either post-partum depression or an anxiety disorder. The proportion of mothers reporting these feelings varied across provinces, ranging from 16% in Saskatchewan to 31% in Nova Scotia."
- The birthing parent experiences the symptoms of the Baby Blues after 2 weeks postpartum.
- Symptoms last longer and are more severe.
- Symptoms can arise at any point within the first year postpartum.
- When experienced, the birthing person can experience the following symptoms:
Fatigue but unable to sleep
Low or no energy
Weight gain or loss (affected appetite)
Feeling of being overwhelmed
Feeling of emptiness
Lack of concentration
Feeling inadequate in taking care of the baby
Negative attitude towards their partner and sometimes the baby
Lack of interest in intimacy and joy
These are some of the risk factors to experiencing Postpartum Depression; however, having any or all of these risk factors doesn't mean you will experience Postpartum Depression:
Formula feeding Vs. breastfeeding
Personal or family history of depression
Perinatal depression or anxiety
Low social support
Poor marital/partner relationship
Infant temperament problems/colic
Single marital status
Low socioeconomic status
Unwanted or unplanned pregnancy
Did you know that partners can also suffer from Postpartum Depression? 1 of 3 partners of a person experiencing Postpartum Depression will also experience symptoms.
What to do now?
If you think you, or someone you know is suffering from postpartum depression, you can use the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to assess the person.
How to cope:
Postpartum Depression is not something people have to “suffer through” or try to overcome on their own. It’s not a normal part of being a parent, and it should be treated.
It is important to respect the nesting-in period right after baby is born. Not trying to be Supermom, decreases the chances of Postpartum Depression.
Get out and get moving (once the birthing parent is healed and feeling good). Get out of the house, get fresh air, have changes in your/their routine. Physical activity not only helps prevent Postpartum Depression , but also helps treat it.
You didn't choose this and It gets easier.
- Emergency 911
- IWK Reproductive Mental Health -- serves birthing parents from 12 weeks of gestation to 9 months postpartum. In order to access this service, you need a referral from your primary healthcare provider.
- NSHA -- Community Mental Health. To access this service you need either a referral from primary healthcare provider or do a Self-Referral.
- Private Practice Clinicians -- Mercedes specializes in working with people in the perinatal period (from fertility to pregnancy and postpartum).
- Mobile Mental Health Crisis Team (24/7) -- for crisis support call 1-888-429-8167
- Postpartum Support International Phone line (non-emergencies) -- 1-800-944-4773
- Support Groups -- The Perinatal Wellness Centre holds postpartum mental health support groups. For more information, contact Mercedes.
- Canadian Mental Health Association (https://cmha.ca/documents/postpartum-depression)
- Statistics Canada Survey on Maternal Mental Health (https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/190624/dq190624b-eng.htm)