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Postpartum Mood

New parenthood is often a time of emotional, social and physical change. You may find yourself in new roles and relationships and notice that aspects of your life have changed considerably. 
It can take time to experience feelings of affection or love for your newborn. These feelings are normal and common for many parents, whether or not they gave birth, and are part of adjusting to your new life. 

Get help immediately if you are having thoughts of harming yourself, your baby or someone else. Call 911, the Distress Line (1-800-784-2433) or go to a hospital emergency room.
Baby blues + PTSD

Baby Blues

About 80 per cent of women feel the ‘baby blues’ within 3 to 5 days of giving birth. The exact cause of the ‘baby blues’ is unknown but is thought to result from hormonal changes that happen after birth and when a mother’s milk comes in. Lack of sleep and changes in your lifestyle may add to the intensity of the feelings. 

You may:
  • have rapid mood swings such as feeling happy one minute then sad;
  • feel helpless, worried or irritable;
  • cry for what seems like no reason;
  • have difficulty sleeping even when you have the chance.
These feelings typically pass within 1-2 weeks. If these symptoms last for more than two weeks after birth, you may be experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD can develop if you have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. For some people, PTSD can develop from having or seeing a caesarean section (dramatic surgery), experiencing a complicated labour and/or birth (experiencing or witnessing pain, effort, uncertainty), or having a sick newborn requiring extra care (possibly in a neonatal intensive care unit).

Symptoms of PTSD: 

  • Re-living the traumatic birth experience in your mind;
  • Avoiding stimuli related to your trauma (e.g. avoiding the hospital where you gave birth);
  • Experiencing negative changes in mood and cognition (e.g. you are unable to remember details of your birth);
  • Increasing arousal and reactivity (e.g. you experience sleep changes or are unable to concentrate).
Get help if you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD related to a traumatic birth experience or are dealing with a sick infant for more than one month. 
Anxiety + depression

Postpartum anxiety

Caring for a new baby brings some stress and worry to all parents, but these feelings typically lessen with time. If you have ongoing feelings of worry that affect your ability to cope, you may be experiencing postpartum anxiety.

You may experience postpartum anxiety in different ways:

  • a racing heart
  • a sore stomach
  • a tight chest
  • shallow breathing
  • loss of appetite
  • difficulty sleeping
  • constant fear or worry which ‘takes over’ your thinking
  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • tenseness or constantly feeling ‘on edge’
  • thoughts that something terrible will happen
  • desire to avoid activities, places or people
  • being extra careful or over-controlling
  • seeking constant reassurance from others
Get help if you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum anxiety.

Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression can occur regardless of gender, or how your baby joined your family (birth, adoption, or surrogacy). Depression affects between 10 to 25 per cent of new parents.

Postpartum depression affects a parent’s mood, behaviour, thoughts and physical health. A parent with depression may find it hard to manage day-to-day activities and may experience:
  • extreme sadness, worry, or anxiety;
  • feelings of being overwhelmed or hopelessness;
  • irritability or anger;
  • guilt, worthlessness, or feel like a terrible parent;
  • loss of interest in things you used to enjoy;
  • withdrawal from family, friends, and contact with others;
  • frequent crying for no reason;
  • difficulty concentrating or making decisions;
  • frightening thoughts about harming yourself or your baby.
Get help if you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression.

In very rare cases, some parents develop postpartum psychosis (a loss of contact with reality).
Getting help
You may recognize when you are feeling badly (e.g, sad, depressed, anxious) but feel embarrassed or afraid to talk about it. But postpartum mood changes may be a sign of a medical condition that needs treatment. Talk to your doctor, midwife or community health nurse about your concerns.

Things you can do to help yourself

Remembering the term NESTS can help you recall the basic steps of self-care to reduce stress and make you feel better:
  • Nutrition – try to eat nutritious food when you can.
  • Exercise – try to get some activity every day, like going for a walk.
  • Sleep and rest – try to get as much sleep as possible and rest when you can.
  • Time for yourself – try to take a few moments each day to care for yourself.
  • Support – ask for help; all new parents need support from others.
Reach out to your partner or family/friends. They can listen, comfort you and help you find support. You may need psychotherapy, either individual or group, or medication to fully treat your symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety. You may need to share the responsibility for cooking, cleaning or caring for your baby while you are getting help.

BC Reproductive Mental Health Program

BC Reproductive Mental Health Program offers information, services, and resources to women across BC, their partners and families, and the professionals who work with them who are dealing with mental health challenges). Ask your care provider to refer you to the program. Note: There is a waitlist.

Get help immediately if you are having thoughts of harming yourself, your baby or someone else.  Call 911, the Distress Line (1-800-784-2433) or go to a hospital emergency room.
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