PPPSS News & Events

The Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Signs & Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

By Sheila Duffy, Staff

How do you know if you have postpartum depression, or are experiencing a difficult adjustment or even normal feelings? Do all new moms feel like this? Why doesn’t anyone talk about what it is really like?

These are just a few commonly asked questions when new moms call our support line. They are often confused as to why they are feeling the way they are feeling. Most of us hold the same belief before we have our kids, “This is supposed to be a happy time.” And if our pregnancy was unexpected, or we weren’t entirely sure this is what we wanted, we can feel even more shame.

So when is it postpartum depression? And when and how do we know that we need to reach out, see our doctor or go on medication?

Pacific Post Partum Support Society believes that it is rarely one issue that is contributing to your distress, most likely it is many issues. Some of which are outlined here in our philosophy:

Our Society believes that PPD/A is a family and social issue with factors such as isolation, poverty, lack of child care and the stressful nature of mothering playing important contributing roles.

Some of what you may experience as a new mom is “common.” After having a baby, many women realize they had no idea what it was really going to be like. And because at first it can be kind of like being in shock, as the changes are so sudden and so huge, it takes awhile to settle in to this new job and this new life. It may also be confusing because the media often uses “postpartum depression” as an umbrella term for anything from a difficult adjustment, the baby blues, anxiety, to sometimes postpartum psychosis, a completely different illness that can happen when we have a baby, but which is not postpartum depression.

So how do we know? One way is to monitor and pay attention to how long the feelings last. Do they come and go; are you still able to function, or is it debilitating? A rule of thumb is: generally if it lasts longer than a couple of weeks, then it may be PPD/A and it is really important to let someone know, either your doctor, public health nurse, your partner or a trusted friend. Many people call us to talk about how they are feeling as a first step, sometimes that call can be all they need to begin the journey towards feeling better. There is also a questionnaire called the EPDS that you can access on our website or through your Doctor or Public Health Nurse. Please discuss the results with a health professional. This is not a diagnosis, but it can help to know what steps to take to increase support and make sure you are getting the help you need.

What are some of the common symptoms of PPD/A;

  • Feeling isolated, either because you are alone, you feel alone in how you feel, you are disconnected or just not able to let anyone know;
  • Sleep is disrupted, often because of baby and feeding, but for many moms they are unable to get back to sleep, or get to sleep in the first place, or they may be just wanting to do nothing else but sleep;
  • Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope. If you have PPD/A, these feelings are very intense;
  • Scary and intrusive thoughts. Many women who are experiencing anxiety postpartum will have thoughts sometimes described as “flashes” of ideas or images of harm coming to their baby, sometimes it is that they have inflicted harm. The thoughts are very alarming and distressing for Mom, as she is wanting to keep her baby safe from harm, she wonders why she would have them and what they mean. Please read more about intrusive thoughts;
  • Overly concerned for baby and not able to relax;
  • Worrying and anxious about lots of things;
  • Feeling angry and irritable;
  • Anxiety or panic attacks;
  • Some women have suicidal thoughts; it is important to reach out and let someone know as you deserve to feel better and there is treatment and support available.

Many women and dads can feel some of these feelings some of the time, but they are fleeting or they don’t last more than a few days. For some people if it is a difficult adjustment, getting more sleep, getting more support, having someone to talk to about feelings can be all it takes to feel better. For others, it may be more complex and, therefore, important to get the right support. We encourage anyone who is wondering to call us, or reach out to someone who knows and understands postpartum issues; there is no need to go through this alone. The good news is that everyone gets better!

We believe that we are meant to have and raise our children within a community of support. Our society now is often fragmented and support that used to come from extended family is missing for many of us, we need to reach out to others in the community to help us, whether we have PPD/A or not.

Through mutual aid and emotional support, women are empowered to engineer their own recovery and to learn skills of self-care which encourage healthy life choices for themselves and their families.

 

I’m Having Scary Thoughts

Scary Thoughts Blog by Postpartum.org

Call if you need us 604-255-7999.

Recently we posted a response to The New York Times article on Postpartum Depression. It is great that a major publication like this one is paying attention to issues in Maternal Mental Health. Our concern with the article, and which was recently reiterated by a Huffington Post article, was that women reading it might get confused by symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety and symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis.

The New York Times article talked about “scary thoughts,” this is where a woman experiences unwanted, intrusive and often repetitive thoughts about harm coming to her baby. In some instances, and more disturbing to her, are thoughts that she will cause harm to her baby. The idea of harming her child is abhorrent to a woman in this state, she is in-touch with a maternal drive to protect her child and would in no way act on these thoughts. This is quite different from Postpartum Psychosis, which is an illness whereby a woman loses touch with reality and it only occurs in 1-2 of 1000 births. She may have thoughts of harm, either to herself or her baby, and in many instances this is driven by the belief that what she is doing will protect her child. She is delusional, often paranoid and can experience hallucinations. Women who experience Postpartum Psychosis need emergency medical treatment.

We talk to many women here at Pacific Post Partum Support Society who experience Postpartum Anxiety and who report that they have scary thoughts of harm coming to their children. We  hope that women everywhere can feel safe in sharing these thoughts with caregivers and support networks like our organization, so that adequate help can be provided. We want women to feel safe to share what is happening, and too often women who experience scary thoughts feel ashamed, and embarrassed or live in fear that if they disclose what is happening to them, someone will take away their child. There is support and treatment available so she can begin to feel some relief and to not feel alone and afraid.

Here is one woman’s experience with scary thoughts:

It began when my son was three months old. My anxiety had progressed and I began to have vivid and terrifying thoughts of harm coming to my child. I imagined myself holding my son out over the banister of our stairs, at the highest point, and dropping him. I was so horrified by this image that I could no longer carry my baby up the stairs, and when I had to – I went quickly turning my back to the railing and protecting him with my body. I had to ask my husband to get my son in the middle of the night to nurse and most days when my husband went to work, baby and I stayed downstairs. I would have this thought, not occasionally, but repetitively throughout the day. And it felt uncomfortable. I was afraid to disclose this to anyone but eventually did in order to get myself the help I needed to get better. I don’t think many people understand that these are terrifying thoughts exactly because I do not want to do them, I want to protect my child and care for him.

 

If you or someone you know is experiencing scary, repetitive and anxiety-producing thoughts, please let them know that we can help.

A Blog About Postpartum Mood Disorders

Pacific Post Partum Support Society

Pacific Post Partum Support Society is dedicated to helping mothers, and their families, cope with symptoms of postpartum mood disorders. The model we were built upon, when we began as an informal gathering more than 40 years ago, is one of mothers supporting mothers. We carry on this tradition today in our programming; we believe that a woman suffering from a postpartum mood disorder can benefit from sharing her experiences with another woman who has or is travelling on a similar journey. We offer groups and telephone support to women in need, and education, information and guidance to the community through workshops.

We believe that postpartum depression is a problem with many dimensions and effects. We hope to empower women to drive their own recovery, by breaking the isolation that many new mothers experience, by understanding what is contributing to their postpartum difficulties and by learning about self care.

This blog is new for us, and we hope it is a space you visit often. Our aim in posting information here is to keep you informed of the issues surrounding postpartum mood disorders including the latest research. It is also to foster a great sense of community amongst those we support or have supported in the past, members of our staff and board, as well as stakeholders and leaders in the healthcare sector. A community is built upon shared stories, and here we want to craft the stories that affect you, impact your life and further the conversation around how best to help women cope with the huge adjustment to motherhood. We will post on topics like frequently asked questions, research, self-care tips and more. We strive to be a leading resource guiding women, their caregivers and loved ones through the strife of maternal mental illness.

To help us stay relevant and supportive of your needs, please provide us with feedback. And help us to spread the word about what helps parents during a difficult postpartum adjustment, including depression and anxiety by posting our content to your social media profiles.

 

Thank you!

 

The Staff and Volunteers of Pacific Post Partum Support Society

New Findings on Postpartum Depression & Our Response

Response to Findings on Postpartum Depression - postpartum.org

Recently, The New York Times published an article on Postpartum Depression entitled,‘Thinking of Ways to Harm Her’ New Findings on Timing and Range of Maternal Mental Illness. The article takes a look at Postpartum Mood Disorders in light of recent research that has changed the scope of the inquiry. It is now found that many women suffer from mental illness during pregnancy, as well as during the first year postpartum. The article also reports that the range of disorders women experience is also broader than previously thought. Women can experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Psychosis and Bi-Polar Disorder.

This is an excellent article about Postpartum Mood Disorders and it highlights the fact that the onset is often during pregnancy. The stories highlighted in the article talk about intrusive thoughts, as well as more serious symptoms of postpartum psychosis.

We feel it is important to note the following, Postpartum Psychosis is different from having “intrusive thoughts.” Intrusive thoughts are a common symptom experienced by women dealing with Postpartum Depression/Anxiety and are often associated with anxiety, as well as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Mothers are extremely unlikely to act on these thoughts. They are disturbed and upset at the nature of these thoughts, and could never imagine hurting their children. They are horrified and ashamed, and are scared to share these thoughts with others as a result.

Although the risk of Psychosis is low, it is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Women who experience Psychosis, as distinct from those who suffer from Postpartum Anxiety or Depression, lose touch with reality; they see and hear things that aren’t there. This website is a great resource for families dealing with psychosis.

Helpless—A Father’s Perspective on Postpartum Depression

A Father's Perspective on PPD

Helpless.

It’s one feeling that always comes back to me when I think about the period when my wife was suffering from Postpartum Depression.

At the time, I had no clue that my wife was in the throes of PPD. Pretty much all that registered in my mind was that neither of us were sleeping, due to our otherwise angelic daughter waking up practically every hour at night. That, and the fact I had to get through another day of work.

I felt awful for feeling it at the time, but work became an escape from what was becoming a daily grind at home. Shouldn’t it be the other way around, after all? Despite drifting through my shifts at work, operating in a fog barely lifted by caffeine, my heart would sink a little when I boarded the bus home.

I’d watched my wife turn from a strong, confident, understanding woman into a browbeaten bundle of frayed nerves. A mother who loved her child more than anything else in the world but would scream at her in the middle of the night, following the eighth wakeup. Occasionally I would awaken in the spare room – to where I had been banished to grab a few hours of precious sleep before the alarm went off again – to hear my wife sobbing across the hallway. Sometimes I went through to check on them both. And sometimes I didn’t, realizing I could do little to help. Helplessness.

I felt like my wife was shutting herself off from me. She seemed to feel as if it was her duty alone to cure our sleep woes, her job as the mother. My attempts to help were often rejected with a “No, it’s fine. I can manage.” A lot of the time I was too exhausted myself to argue. I tried as often as I could to take our daughter out on my own to give my wife a break. One time I secretly booked a night in a bed & breakfast for my wife. I practically had to order her out of the house.

I tried to remain objective. I tried to remain understanding. I tried to let all the irrationalities of what I just believed was sleep deprivation wash off me. It was hard. Bottling your own feelings up is never a good thing.

Having an outlet helped. You find out who your real friends are when you can just unload on them. Still, you feel a little guilty burdening them with so much of your negativity. In reflection, a confidential helpline seems like a no-brainer. If only I’d known at the time.

My wife did occasionally thank me for my support, and that helped too. I told her as often as I could that she was doing a great job raising an amazing girl. Because she was. We both were. Our daughter was happy, healthy and cute beyond belief.

And things did improve, slowly. Our daughter began sleeping better. We moved house, closer to my work, closer to friends. We felt more connected again, to the outside world and to each other. The fog of helplessness was lifting and we could see the way forward.

Jan Zeschky is a journalist and father who lives in Burnaby.

*If you are a partner of someone suffering from Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, know that there is support for you and your family. Please contact us if you need assistance.

Thank you to all of the Dads who support our women in getting strong, and healthy. Happy Father’s Day.