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What is Postpartum Depression? Could I have it?

By Rosemary Rukavina


What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a major depressive disorder that affects 10 to 15 percent of women during or after pregnancy or adoption. Although PPD is most commonly associated with women, men can also experience PPD. Symptoms can include: sleeping and eating changes, concentration disturbances, exhaustion, anxiety, hopelessness, guilt, and thoughts of suicide. Women describe having a depressed mood and that they experience a loss of interest in things they were previously interested in. This potentially impairing condition is diagnosed by a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist. Most nurses, social workers, and mental health professionals are also alert to the signs mentioned above and will make proper referrals.

Like many medical and mental health conditions the exact cause is unknown. However, many risk factors have been identified. A previous history of depression and anxiety, low self-esteem, and experiencing stressful life events (e.g., death, immigration) are a few. Other risks may be if the new baby has health complications or a difficult temperament. Finally, a lack of social support, a poor marital relationship, and not perceiving one’s needs being met can also contribute. Many other factors have been identified but these named here are the most commonly found.

Treatment for PPD is similar to the treatment for depression. However, some treatment programs have been tailored to meet the needs of the men and women who experience depression during this challenging stage of life. Medication, cognitive-behavioural therapy, individual therapy, group therapy, and psychoeducation are the most common modes of treatment. If you seek treatment with a mental health provider (e.g., psychologist, clinical counsellor) they may use other modalities to support you in your recovery, like mindfulness, hypnosis, or mind-body interventions.

Experiencing changes in mood after the addition of a baby to your family is experienced by many new parents. If you are concerned that your mood change is not a normal part of the adjustment, call the Pacific Post Partum Support Society support line or book an appointment with your family doctor.

*Source – Cline, K. M. C., & Decker, J. (2012). Journal of Health Psychology


Do I have Postpartum Depression?

Childbirth is commonly portrayed as a joyous time in a couple’s life. With the birth of a baby, families come together, love expands, and the hopes and promises of a new future unfold. The common feelings of overwhelm and anxiety, before and after childbirth, is a common experience for many individuals.

However, after a new member is added to a family, a negative mood and thought process can rob some women and men of their transition to parenthood. The thoughts and feelings that take over can be confusing. Confusion, guilt, and anxiety can make many suffer in silence as a result of not understanding what is going on or feeling shame in admitting that they are not living up to some standard of being a “good parent”.

It’s difficult to know that an experience is abnormal if you’ve never experienced it before; you have nothing to compare it to. Add exhaustion and disorientation to the mix and it becomes even more challenging to decide what is normal and what may be a potential concern. Symptoms to look for include: difficulties getting out of bed, thoughts that cause guilt or fear, or any on a wonderful list that Postpartum Progress has composed in “plain mama english“. It can be helpful to gauge whether it is important to see your family doctor about a symptom similar to the reasons you would see a doctor regarding a pregnancy symptom. It is just as important. Be certain to seek out your doctor or a mental health practitioner if the symptom persists or worsens. For more information on the postpartum journey, as well as to watch videos of several women’s personal experiences, please click here.




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