Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

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Emotional Health in Pregnancy and After Birth

Parents may have many different feelings before and after their baby arrives ranging from joy and excitement to guilt and sadness. Sometimes these feelings become so difficult that a parent can feel overwhelmed and helpless.

Couples share their struggles with identifying their postpartum difficulties and depression.

Having a baby is a big life change, feelings ranging from joy and excitement to guilt and sadness can happen at any time during pregnancy or within the first year after the birth or adoption of a baby.

About one in five parents experience depression and anxiety.

You May Feel

  • Exhaustion
  • A loss of interest in things that used to bring happiness
  • Sadness, anger, loneliness
  • A change in appetite
  • A feeling of constant worry
  • Guilt and self blame
  • Difficulty remembering things or making decisions
  • Thoughts of hurting themself or baby

 

If feelings last for most of the day, every day, for two weeks or more, speak to your health care provider or public health nurse.

Why?

The causes of depression are unclear. Many hormonal and chemical changes happen during pregnancy and after having a baby. Some other factors include:  

  • History of depression or trauma 
  • Lack of support or isolation 
  • Life stress

Take Care of Yourself

  • Recognize you are going through a major life change
  • Ask for help
    • Talk to your health care provider
    • Talk to friends and family
  • Sleep as much as you can
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Plan one thing to look forward to every day
  • Be active every day
  • Go to a local support and parenting program

Women commonly have signs of anxiety along with postpartum depression. Anxiety and depression can also happen on their own.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you are feeling any of following signs. It may be difficult to talk about your thoughts and feelings with your health care providers.  But they can support you in getting the help you need. The sooner you get help, the better you will feel.

Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at times. Anxiety disorders, however, are different. They can cause such distress that it interferes with a person's ability to lead a normal life.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Excess worry
  • Scary or upsetting thoughts
  • Racing heart
  • Feeling on edge, restless or irritable
  • Avoiding people, places or activities
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Sweaty or clammy hands

Panic Disorder

A sudden feeling of intense fear or discomfort making you feel "out of control". Some women think they are having a heart attack or nervous breakdown.

Common Symptoms

  • Racing heart, chest pain
  • Sweating, hot or cold flashes
  • Shaking, loss of feeling or a tingling sensation
  • Shortness of breath, a feeling like you are choking
  • Stomach upset
  • Dizziness
  • Fear of dying

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)- Scary thoughts

Unwanted thoughts that can come and go involving harm to yourself or your baby. They can feel very real but when these thoughts happen after having a baby, mothers usually know that these thoughts are not real and will not act on them.

Common Symptoms

  • Unwanted, repetitive thoughts, impulses or images
  • Repetitive actions (e.g. washing hands over and over again, checking the baby all the time)
  • Scary thoughts or visions of the baby being harmed

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD can happen after a distressing event such as a difficult or traumatic labour and birth, an accident, natural disasters, death of a loved one, abuse or sexual assault, or war.

Common Symptoms

  • Thoughts and dreams of the event
  • Feeling numb and detached from the world
  • Hard time sleeping
  • Lack of bonding with the baby
  • Sexual problems
  • More likely to miss doctor visits
  • Avoiding further pregnancies
  • Avoiding places that remind you of the trauma

The most severe and rare postpartum mood disorder. It usually appears after the birth, within a few days, and in most cases within the first 3 weeks. It is a dangerous disorder as it can lead to suicide or infanticide.

Common Symptoms

  • Very depressed
  • Mania or elevated mood
  • Very agitated
  • Confused
  • Unusual thoughts, problems with reality
  • Not sleeping or eating
  • Strange behaviour
  • See or hear things that are not really there (delusions or hallucinations)


If you notice any of these signs in yourself, in a friend or partner, contact a doctor and go to a hospital emergency right away.