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Depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after birth

Depression or anxiety symptoms?

Call one of the HaltonParents team of public health nurses at 311 if you have symptoms of depression or anxiety

For some women and their families, being pregnant or having a new baby is not the joyful and exciting time they had hoped for. Instead, they are overwhelmed with the changes in their body, the demands of the little one, and the struggle to adjust to the idea of or roles of parenthood.

It is important that parents know that perinatal mood disorders (PMD) present themselves in many different ways. Most importantly, you need to recognize the signs and symptoms of PMD and speak with your health care provider as soon as possible.

Did you know?

PMD can be treated. Remember: you are not alone, this is not your fault, and help is available.

  • Between 12 and 24% of women experience depression during pregnancy
  • Up to 70% of new mothers experience signs or symptoms of PMD after having a baby.
  • Up to 13% of new mothers experience postpartum depression or anxiety after having a baby

What are the postpartum blues?

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Feeling sad
  • Crying spells

The postpartum blues occur within the first couple of hours to the first week or two after your baby’s delivery.

With time and support, most people will recover from the blues. However, if these symptoms become worse, or continue after the first few weeks postpartum, you may be developing postpartum depression.

What are the signs of perinatal depression and anxiety?

The most common symptoms (PDF file) include:

  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns, such as the inability to sleep when the baby sleeps or extreme exhaustion
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • The emotions experienced may include:
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Unhappiness
    • Feelings of guilt, loneliness, and confusion
    • You may experience a feeling of being disconnected from your baby or may have negative thoughts about your baby

Risk factors for postpartum depression include:

  • A personal or family history of depression and/or anxiety
  • A stressful work or home life
  • Lack of support from your partner and others
  • Complications or illness during the pregnancy and the delivery
  • A baby with a difficult temperament

What are the signs of depression/anxiety in pregnancy?

  • Feeling fearful, scared, irritable or upset
  • Feeling panicky, keyed up or on edge
  • Feeling alone, guilty or hopeless
  • Experiencing changes in sleep (sleeplessness or sleeping all the time) or appetite (low appetite or wanting to eat all the time)
  • Very low energy, difficulty concentrating
  • Wanting to isolate yourself from family and friends
  • Excessive checking or reassurance seeking or online ‘research’
  • Trembling, shakiness, racing/pounding heart
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, shortness of breath
  • Unrealistic or excessive worry about the baby or other topics

See this Best Start resource on mental health during pregnancy (external PDF file) for more information.


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  • Do not blame yourself. This is not your fault and you are not a bad parent.
  • Ask for, and accept help. Talk with your partner, family, friends, and health care provider. Accept help with meals, housework, and baby care.
  • Take care of yourself:
    • Rest/sleep when baby sleeps
    • Eat well, and get out of the house for activity and fresh air
    • Accept help from others/ share the responsibility
    • Set realistic goals and expectations
    • Don’t be afraid to limit visitors
  • Get counselling. Speak with your health care provider or a public health nurse about your options.
  • Consider medication. Your health care provider can recommend a product which you can safely take while breastfeeding.
  • Attend one of our Adjusting to Parenthood Groups available in Burlington and Oakville.
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    New research is emerging regarding perinatal mood disorders in dads/partners. Studies indicate that approximately 10% of fathers will experience depression during or after the delivery. Research also shows that any parent can experience postpartum depression – whether that parent is biological or not, adoptive, gay or straight.

    Typically the onset of postpartum depression in partners occurs later in the postpartum period, unlike the mother/birthing parent, who usually exhibit symptoms in the early postpartum period.

    Some contributing factors for postpartum depression in dads/partners include:

    • The increased responsibility of supporting a mother/birthing parent with postpartum mood disorders
    • Limited time for social and recreational activities
    • Decreased household income
    • Personal history of depression
    • Lack of support
    • Relationship stress with partner
    • Changes in family dynamics with new mother/birthing parent, parents, siblings
    • Lack of sleep

    PMD symptoms in partners may include:

    • Being easily stressed
    • Increased frustration and anger
    • Increased risk taking behaviours
    • Feeling discouraged
    • Ongoing physical symptoms such as headaches
    • Fatigue, lack of motivation and difficulty concentrating
    • Weight loss
    • Loss of interest in work, hobbies, or sex
    • Violent behaviour
    • Isolation from family and friends

    What a partner can do to help:

    • Be aware of your changing feelings
    • Take time for yourself
    • Eat properly, exercise, and get adequate rest
    • Consider joining a fathers/partners parenting group
    • Contact your local Ontario Early Years Centre to enquire about father or partner/baby groups or events

    Ger more information (external link).

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    • Listen to and support the feelings of your partner. Recognize that she may feel afraid and overwhelmed.
    • Encourage and reassure her whenever you can.
    • Get to know the baby. Help out with feedings and keeping track of feedings, play time, and diaper changes.
    • Assist with the care of older children. Reassure them that their other parent will be okay.
    • Provide nourishing meals. Encourage friends to bring food or pick up something already prepared from the grocery store.
    • Help with housework: do laundry, tidy up, and get older children ready for daycare or school.
    • As a helper, don’t ignore your own needs. Find someone to talk to, whether it is family, friends, a health care provider, or a crisis line worker.
    • For further information, visit (external link)
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    • Speak to your health care provider
    • Perinatal depression and anxiety respond well to a variety of treatments, including counselling, psychotherapy, group support, and the use of antidepressant medication
    • There are antidepressant and antianxiety medications available which you can safely take while pregnant and breastfeeding. Consult your health care provider, your pharmacist, and motherisk external link for more information.
    • Remember: help is available, you are not alone, and you will get better!
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    On very rare occasions, parents will suffer from Postpartum Psychosis. This is a serious illness with risks to the parent and the baby.

    It is important that you get help right away.

    Warning signs:

    • Thoughts of harming her/himself or the baby
    • Hearing or seeing things that are not there
    • Believing people or things are going to harm her/himself or the baby
    • Feeling confused or out of touch with reality

    The parent should not be left alone or left with the baby.

    • Call the doctor
    • Go to the local emergency department
    • Contact your local crisis intervention line (see where to get help in Halton) or COAST at 1-877-825-9011
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    Crisis help lines


    HaltonParents blog

    Check out these HaltonParents blogs for a personal take on postpartum depression:

    Related links:

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