Mental Health in Pregnancy and Postpartum

Pregnancy related mental health concerns (most commonly including depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder) are common and can start any time in pregnancy, postpartum or even before a pregnancy if you’ve struggled with loss or infertility.

Symptoms of depression or anxiety in pregnancy and postpartum can include fatigue, lack of motivation, tearfulness, poor sleep, worried or intrusive thoughts, irritability, anger and rage, feeling useless, constantly overwhelmed or incapable, feeling as though you made a huge mistake in becoming a parent, and/or thoughts that your family would be better off without you.

Baby Blues

The baby blues are common and impact up to 80% of new mothers. Symptoms occur within the first two weeks postpartum, typically peaking around day 3-5 and are provoked by rapid hormonal changes post-delivery in addition to sleep changes and lifestyle shock with the arrival of a new baby. Commonly, people can have episodes of feeling overwhelmed, tearful, anxious or easily irritated, however, in between these episodes the baseline mood is still positive and joyful. Importantly, symptoms resolve within two weeks. If symptoms last any longer than the first two weeks, it is more likely that you are experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety.

Postpartum Stress Syndrome

Postpartum Stress Syndrome falls somewhere between the baby blues and postpartum depression/anxiety and while it doesn’t quite meet the criteria for a mental health diagnosis it can feel quite awful to the person living with it. In postpartum stress syndrome, you may function relatively well but may be feeling significant internal distress marked by intense feelings of self-doubt and perfectionist tendencies. Left unsupported, it may progress into a full-blown mood or anxiety disorder so it is important to connect with your family doctor or maternity care provider right away if you aren’t feeling yourself.

Intrusive Thoughts

It is very common to experience intrusive thoughts which are distressing images or ideas, often about harm coming to your baby. These thoughts are common, impacting up to 90% of postpartum people and do not mean that you want to harm your baby or that you are a bad person.

When To Get Help

If you find yourself struggling to experience joy in new parenthood or are not functioning like you once did (for example not sleeping when baby is sleeping, not eating, not going out, not connecting with friends) or you are having frequent and distressing intrusive thoughts or thoughts of self-harm, suicide or harm to baby, you need to access help right away. The first place to start is with your family doctor or maternity care provider who can support you in feeling well. There is help available and you will not feel like this forever.

Other Resources

Pacific Postpartum Society
Telephone coaching for women and partners. Call Toll Free: 1-885-255-7999.

Crisis Nurse
Call 24/7 to reach a Crisis Nurse at 1-888-494-3888.

Clinical Counsellors
Private pay and Employee Assistance Program.

For Everything That’s Community Health! Many resources for Campbell River.

Olive Branch Counselling
Free one-on-one Public Health Nursing support for women experiencing prenatal and postpartum depression, anxiety and adjustment challenges. The focus is on building skills and setting goals that support women to regain a sense of well-being. Contact Public Health at 250-850-2110 for more information.