“I just had a baby whom I love… so why am I feeling depressed?”
Many women who are pregnant, have just given birth, or have an infant up to a year old, as well as some of their partners, may find themselves in a lower than usual mood or even a depression. 85% of woman will experience some sort of “baby blues” or decrease in mood one to two weeks after childbirth. This is due to hormonal shifts and the major stress and transition of having a baby.
However, for about 10 to 15% of women this experience can become a prolonged depression and in very rare cases a form of psychosis. The birth of a child for many is a life-altering experience, placing a huge stress on the mother and also her partner. The physical challenge of childbirth, as well as the reality of going from being an independent person to being sleep-deprived and at the beck and call of an infant, impacts a person’s sense of identity and world view.
Dealing with Postpartum Depression
You can love your child and still feel depressed. It is extremely important that a woman feels able to talk about her experience of depression after the birth of her child and not feel judged as a bad person or mother because of it.
New mothers need to feel supported and not judged. Single mothers or mothers without a strong support system are particularly at risk. Shame or guilt about it does not help. Be prepared that this may happen to you & take precautions by monitoring your mood & talking openly to your partner and family about your feelings or seeking professional counseling support.
Am I at risk for Postpartum depression?
It is more likely you will develop postpartum depression if
- You have a history of depression
- You experienced stressful events leading up to the birth of your child
- You do not have a strong support system
Signs of Postpartum depression:
The severity of symptoms will vary person to person. If you are having difficulty managing being a new parent, get the help you need.
- Feeling overwhelmed with sadness most of the day
- Extreme anger, irritability or frustration
- Hopelessness or feelings of guilt, insecurity or inadequacy
- Feeling restless or a lack of energy
- Loss of interest and pleasure in most things including the baby
- Uncontrollable crying
- Sleep or eating problems
- Anxiety or panic attack
- Excessive fear about the baby’s health
- Scary thoughts about harming the baby (seek help immediately)
- Suicidal thoughts (seek help immediately)
*Important: if you feel you or your partner’s depressed state is affecting the ability to take care of a child properly and the child is at risk, seek help from child and family services immediately.
Postpartum Depression Tips and Reminders
- Becoming a parent is hard work. Go easy on yourself. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, birth, child or relationship.
- New parents often benefit from couples counselling to deal with the added stress of having a baby and changes in their identities and roles that impact their romantic life and time for intimacy
- Get the support you need- join a network of new mothers, find a therapist, or join a support group
- Eat healthy and get exercise
See other self-help strategies for depression here.
Supporting a Partner With Postpartum Depression
- Try to have realistic expectations of the person’s day-to-day abilities.
- Remember that every parent and child is unique. Do not compare your partner or child to others.
- People who experience postpartum depression may want to spend a lot of time alone. Don’t take it personally. It isn’t about you.
- Offer help with daily responsibilities and childcare (including overnight feedings). Seek help from friends, family and neighbors.
- Go on a date and encourage your partner to do something for themselves.
- Managing postpartum depression is hard work. Recognize a loved one’s efforts regardless of the outcome.
- Seek therapy support for yourself or encourage your partner to get help.
The Montreal Therapy Centre can match you with a psychotherapist, counsellor or psychologist who understands postpartum depression. We can provide support and treatment to both individuals and couples during this difficult and sensitive time.