Learning you are pregnant is a beautiful moment for many individuals. Throughout pregnancy, an individual experiences many emotional and physical changes. No matter how much you prepare for the birth of your child, nothing can truly prepare you for the arrival of your baby, and the wave of emotions that arrive with this precious new life.
In the days after birth, many moms experience what is known as the “baby blues”, which can last for days after birth. The baby blues can leave a mom feeling sad, lonely, and empty. If these baby blues do not disappear days after the initial birth, an individual may be experiencing postpartum depression (PPD). In this blog we discuss what postpartum depression is, the effects on the individual and family, treatment for PPD, and how to support someone who is experiencing PPD.
WHAT IS POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION?
PPD is a combination of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that take place after giving birth. Signs of depression or an anxiety disorder may appear within the first year after birth and can last for months or even years. Signs and symptoms may include feelings of sadness, worry, and fatigue. A mother may see changes in appetite, which may involve gaining or losing weight. A mother may lose concentration and her ability to think clearly. Sleep deprivation can also further a mother’s feeling of vulnerability and trigger feelings of depression. There is no single cause for PPD, and it could be influenced by a mixture of physical, mental, social, and hormonal changes.
PPD not only affects mom and her baby, it can affect the whole family. A mother may distance herself from other family members, alienating herself and her baby from exposing her symptoms. Unfortunately, expectations in society for new mothers and the stigma around mental illness can be detrimental to a mother’s need to seek treatment. Like any and all other mental illnesses, there is no shame in admitting you need help with PPD.
According to Statistics Canada, in Canada, almost one-quarter (23%) of mothers who recently gave birth reported feelings consistent with either PPD or an anxiety disorder. It’s further noted that one in three mothers who reported PPD or an anxiety disorder had previously been told that they had depression or another mood disorder.
PPD can appear different for each individual experiencing symptoms. Some may experience feelings of highs and lows, crying, or feelings of impatience and anger. PPD is very similar to depressive episodes experienced by non-mothers, but the treatment is different and more focused on the individual’s position as a mother and infant care.
TREATMENT FOR PPD
If an individual is experiencing symptoms of the baby blues, or PPD, it is advised that they contact their doctor and book an appointment for consultation. As a mother, if you feel you are having trouble caring for your baby due to feelings of depression, anxiety, and other PPD symptoms, getting help as soon as possible is important for your health and your baby’s health. This is especially true for mother’s who are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566
With a consultation from your doctor, they may recommend an antidepressant and refer you to a mental health professional such as a counsellor or therapist. A counsellor will provide you with a safe, non judgemental space where you can share your thoughts and feelings regarding PPD and your child. Mental health professionals are trained and educated to provide you with coping strategies and mental exercises to help relieve symptoms, and set realistic goals for your recovery. They may also suggest family counselling so your loved ones can learn more about PPD and how they may help in recovery.
HOW TO SUPPORT SOMEONE WITH PPD
PPD does not only affect mom and her baby, the whole family can feel the effects of depression. One way to support a mother experiencing symptoms of PPD is to listen to her feelings and concerns, while maintaining an open and non-judgement space. A healthier environment for mom is one that feels safe and supportive. You may also show support by letting her know that she is still the individual she was before she had a baby, and that these feelings and symptoms won’t last forever. Help support her decision to seek treatment, and celebrate even her small wins. It may assist her recovery further if you join in group therapy sessions. Having a supportive environment is a great tool in promoting recovery for any individual.
PPD is a serious mental health concern, but one that can be treated with the help of a professional. With almost a quarter of new mom’s feeling symptoms of PPD, know that you are not alone and there is help. PPD can look different for each individual and may not always appear as you expect it to. If you would like to discuss mental health and PPD with our team or talk to a professional for more information, please contact us HERE.