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Perinatal Mood Disorders

Baby Blues: A Passing Wave of Emotion

Up to 80% of birthing people will experience the baby blues, which is generally described as mild to moderate feelings of sadness that come up soon after your baby’s birth and only last for a few days. If your symptoms last beyond two weeks or don’t improve with increased self-care, this could indicate that what you are experiencing is not the baby blues and that you need more support.

Signs & Symptoms

Crying, mood swings, low mood, worry, feelings of distress for brief periods

What helps?

With the Baby Blues, professional support is generally not needed. Focus on self-care and NESTS: Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep, Time to yourself, and Support

Postpartum Depression: More Than the Baby Blues

Postpartum or perinatal depression (PPD) begins during pregnancy or in the first year postpartum. If left untreated, postpartum depression can persist for several months or even years. With the proper treatment and support, we know that new parents can and do recover.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Feeling overwhelmed by everyday activities.
  • Not experiencing joy or pleasure in your usual activities.
  • Feeling like you’re not doing enough or that you’re a “bad parent.”
  • Feeling irritable, angry or resentful.
  • Feeling numb or unable to feel emotions.
  • Crying/weeping even at times that you can’t explain.
  • Having intrusive or scary thoughts.
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby or having a lack of interest in them.
  • Thoughts of suicide or “running away from it all.”
  • Loss of appetite or overeating.
  • Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep, or sleeping too much.
  • Feeling tired and exhausted.
  • Feeling like you’re alone or have no support.
  • Having trouble concentrating, experiencing brain fog.
  • Changing your substance use patterns (ex. drinking more alcohol).

What Helps?

There are many things that can help you feel better and recover from PPD. Many people worry that if they reach out to their health care provider the only treatment option they will be offered is medications. While antidepressant medications can be a useful tool, there are many other things you can do to help. These include:

  • Focus on meeting your basic needs: sleep, food, water.
  • Ask for help from family, friends, neighbours, and other people in your community.
  • Take breaks and have time to yourself.
  • Set small, manageable goals for the day.
  • Return to a hobby that you had before the baby – do something you love.
  • Get out of the house – even just a short walk around the block.
  • Connect with people in real life, and not just on social media.
  • Join a support group (for more information about the groups we offer click here).
  • Working through this Guided self-management workbook.
  • Counselling.
  • Referral to your local Reproductive Mental Health program.
 

By taking care of your own needs first, you can better take care of your family.

Important Note

Not all treatment options are suitable for everyone. Talk to your health care provider about what kind of treatment would best serve you.

Further Exploration

Postpartum Bipolar Disorder: Extreme Highs and Extreme Lows

Postpartum Bipolar Disorder is characterized by two phases: a depressive (low) phase, followed by manic or hypomanic (high) phase. These cycles are more than just the emotional ups and downs that are typical of pregnancy and postpartum – they are more extreme and impact a person’s functioning and relationships.

Duration

Beginning anytime after your baby’s birth, up to one year. Can persist for months or even years without treatment.

Signs & Symptoms:

Bipolar disorder can look like severe depression or anxiety. See the symptoms listed above. Also:

  • Extremely low mood.
  • Extremely good mood.
  • Talking very quickly.
  • Not needing very much sleep.
  • Very high energy.
  • Racing thoughts and difficulty concentrating.
  • Overconfidence.
  • Impulsiveness and poor judgement.
  • Grandiose and/or paranoid delusions.
  • Irritability.

What Helps?

It is important that you consult with a health professional to get an assessment and diagnosis, and to determine the appropriate treatment, especially if you are so wired that you cannot sleep. In addition to professional support, you can find some self-management strategies in the ‘what helps’ section for PPD above.

Important Note

According to Postpartum Support International, “The criteria for a diagnosis of a bipolar mood disorder is that the symptoms last longer than four days and interfere with functioning and relationships.”

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