Mental health is the ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. Mental illness can change our thinking, mood and behaviours and may affect our ability to cope and function.
If you think you may be having mental health problems, see your health care provider right away.
Health Info Line, Renfrew County and District Health Unit: 1-800-267-1097, ext. 666 or 613-735-8666.
If you are feeling overwhelmed as a parent you can call the 24-hour, 7 day/week Child, Youth and Family Crisis Line for Eastern Ontario: 1-877-377-7775.
Phoenix Centre for Children and Families – Walk-in Counselling
Petawawa Military Family Resource Centre – Mental Health Walk-in Clinic
The first few weeks after the birth of a baby can be exciting. But this time can also be stressful for a new mother and her family. About 80% or mothers feel the “baby blues” or postpartum blues 3 to 5 days after giving birth. They may:
- Feel happy one minute and sad the next
- Feel helpless, worried, irritable or anxious
- Cry for what seems like no reason
- Have trouble sleeping
These are normal feelings when women have postpartum blues. Usually they get better or go away within a week or two. But, if a women’s mood does not improve after two weeks of giving birth, she may be experiencing postpartum depression.
Depression in pregnancy
We often hear about postpartum (after birth) depression, but depression can actually begin in pregnancy. One in five women report feeling depressed and/or anxious during pregnancy. Pregnant women who are worried about their moods are encouraged to talk to their health care provider. Treating depression in pregnancy can reduce the risk of depression after the baby is born.
Postpartum depression affects a woman’s mood, behaviour, thoughts and physical well-being. Some women start feeling depressed within the first few days after baby is born. Others do not feel depressed until weeks or months later. A woman who is experiencing depression may:
- Have little or no interest or enjoyment in things she used to enjoy
- Feel sad most of the time.
- Feel anxious or worried, guilty and ashamed, alone, panicky, frustrated, angry and irritable, worthless, hopeless
- Have no energy
- Have a poor appetite or feel like eating all the time
- Be unable to concentrate
- Cry for no apparent reason
- Sleep too much or too little
Many women who experience postpartum depression will also experience anxiety. Some symptoms are racing heart, feeling on edge, too much or unrealistic worry and upsetting thoughts or images of harm to the baby. Other times, women experience symptoms of anxiety without being depressed.
In extremely rare cases, women develop psychosis after giving birth. Some symptoms are:
- Feeling extremely confused and hopeless
- Not able to sleep
- Distrust of other people
- Seeing things or hearing things that are not there
- Thoughts of harming oneself, the baby or others
This is an emergency and immediate medical assessment and treatment are needed.
Risk factors for postpartum mood disorders
Some women have a higher risk of developing a postpartum mood disorder. The most common reasons are when a woman:
- experienced depression or anxiety in the past
- has a family member who has had depression or anxiety
- Has too little support from friends, family and community
What a woman can do
There are many things a woman can do to benefit her emotional health:
- Don’t feel embarrassed, ashamed or guilty – it’s not her fault
- Ask for help
- Take care of herself – eat healthy; get rest, fresh air and exercise; take time for herself
- Talk to someone she trusts
- Seek assessment and treatment from her health care provider. Consider treatment options like counselling and medication
A woman may find it helpful to complete the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale. It is a short questionnaire that checks for postpartum depression. New mothers can easily complete and score it at home and then take it to her health care provider to talk about how she is feeling. It is important for a woman to tell her Health Care Provider all the symptoms she is experiencing so that all available support and treatment options are considered.
Support from partners and family
Partner and family support is also very important for a woman with a postpartum mood disorder. They can listen to a mother’s concerns, help her make decisions and comfort her. They may need to help with practical things like looking after children and household chores.
Your health care provider
Mental Health Crisis Line or 1-866-996-0991
Ontario Mental Health Helpline or 1-866-531-2600