Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
At Alive Counselling, we are a group of moms who are also therapists. We love working with
- Women in pregnancy and pregnancy loss
- Attachment work
- Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
- Supporting Moms’ Mental Health throughout all of the Stages of Motherhood
- overall Maternal Mental Health
Empty cups cannot pour and we love being able to help pour into you as you pour out to those around you
See below for some information
From BC Reproductive Mental Health Program
Baby Blues & Postpartum Depression
Depression in Pregnancy
We usually hear about postpartum (after birth) depression, but
depression can actually begin in pregnancy.
8‐12% of pregnant women experience depression
10‐16% of women experience depression in the first year
after birth (postpartum)
If you are pregnant and worried about your mood, talk to your
doctor. Treating depression in pregnancy can reduce the risk of
depression after the baby is born.
About 80% of mothers feel the “baby blues” or postpartum
blues 3‐5 days after giving birth. They may:
feel happy one minute and sad the next – rapid mood
feel helpless, worried, irritable or anxious
cry for what seems like no reason
have problems sleeping
These are normal feelings and responses when women have the postpartum blues. Usually these symptoms get better or go
away within a week or two and do not require treatment. But, if your mood does not improve after 2 weeks of giving birth,
you may be experiencing postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression (PPD)
Depression affects a woman’s mood, behaviour, thoughts and
physical well‐being. Some women might start feeling depressed
within the first few days after the baby is born. Others might
not feel depressed until weeks or months later. A woman who
is experiencing PPD may:
Feel depressed or extremely sad, most of the day and
nearly every day
Feel irritable or angry
Feel guilty or worthless
Feel hopeless and overwhelmed
The first few weeks after the birth of a baby can be exciting. But
this time can also be very stressful for a woman. Her body is
going through changes in hormones, daily routines and sleeping
It’s not surprising that many women feel sad, overwhelmed and
tearful. Sometimes it is hard to know if the changes to your
mood are due to normal “baby blues” or a more serious postpartum depression.
You can learn more by reading this fact sheet ‐ but it is always a
good idea to talk to your healthcare provider if you’re
concerned about your mood.
There is help available for postpartum depression. With
treatment, most women improve a lot and are able to do much
better in all areas of their lives.
Lose interest in things she used to enjoy
Sleep a lot more or a lot less than usual
Eat more or less than usual
Withdraw from family, friends and contact with other
Cry for no apparent reason
Be restless, or have little energy
Find it hard to concentrate or make decisions
Have headaches or upset stomach or other physical
Have thoughts that she is a terrible mother
Have frightening thoughts that keep coming back about
harming herself or her baby
Only a doctor can diagnose depression. A woman may be
diagnosed with postpartum depression if the symptoms:
last for more than two weeks
are very upsetting to the woman
make it difficult to carry out her daily activities and care for
If I am depressed, why do I feel so anxious?
Many women who experience PPD will also experience anxiety.
Some symptoms of anxiety are a racing heart, feeling on edge,
too much or unrealistic worry, and upsetting thoughts or
images of harm to the baby. Other times women will experience
symptoms of anxiety without being depressed.
It’s important to tell your healthcare provider all of the
symptoms you are experiencing. That way you can both discuss
all of the support and treatments that are available to you.
I love using a personalized Anxiety Plan from Anxiety Canada. Here is some information specific to Moms (they also have information on nerves, anxiety and stress for moms-to-be we can work through together as well).
Recognizing Post-Partum Anxiety
“It’s like I have all this nervous energy; I can’t slow down or turn my brain off. Like my adrenaline is pumping all the time. When I look at my baby, instead of feeling lovey-dovey, I feel my throat and chest clench. What is wrong with me?”Jennifer
I am so nervous all the time, I feel so out of control with worries. I don’t even want to leave the house and bump into anyone I know. If I go out I worry about Arman starting to cry – what if I can’t console him, and everyone stares at me and thinks I am a terrible mother?”Salima
Having a newborn at home is a time of emotional upheaval, even under the best circumstances. Whether it’s a woman’s first venture into motherhood or her fourth, anxiety is a common feeling during this time. However, for some women, anxiety can start to build gradually and interfere with her ability to enjoy and take care of her new baby – and herself. Unfortunately, even medical care providers can miss the signs of prolonged postpartum anxiety, sometimes mislabeling it as postpartum depression or attributing it to all the sudden life changes. Many people don’t know that it’s possible to have an anxiety disorder and depression at the same time.
A moderate amount of new fears and worries is normal and expected during this time of change. If you are experiencing quite a bit of anxiety, it can be helpful to first learn more about what anxiety is, and how it can show up for new moms.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural, adaptive response we experience when we feel unsafe or threatened. We perceive many kinds of “threats”; some can be specific and real (e.g., being followed down a dark alley). Some feel more vague, like a general sense that something “bad” will happen. We may also have an anxious response to a threat we are imagining in our heads, like picturing a loved one getting into an accident.
We can experience anxiety in these areas:
- In our bodies (increased heart rate, sore stomach, tight chest and throat, shallow breathing, loss of appetite, difficulty falling or staying asleep, etc.)
- In our mind (racing thoughts about the future; imagining the worst-case scenario; ruminating; worrying and obsessing, etc.)
- In our actions or behaviours (avoiding certain situations, activities, places, or people; over-controlling; asking others for constant reassurance; checking things repeatedly; being extra careful and vigilant of danger, etc.)
Other possible signs of anxiety during the postpartum period:
- loss of appetite
- difficulty sleeping
- muscle tension (grinding teeth, neck and shoulder pain, back pain, muscle twitching)
- difficulty concentrating and focusing
Everyone experiences anxiety differently
In extremely rare cases, women will develop psychosis after the
delivery of their baby. Some symptoms of psychosis 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 yourself, your baby or others
Women with a history of bipolar disorder or other mental
illnesses, like schizophrenia, may be at higher risk of
developing postpartum psychosis. If this happens, contact a
health care professional immediately.
Some women have a higher risk of developing postpartum
depression. The most common reasons are when a woman:
has experienced depression or anxiety in the past
has a family member(s) who has had depression or anxiety
took medication for depression or anxiety and stopped be‐
fore or during pregnancy
has too little support from friends, family and community
Myths & Facts
Myth: You can just “snap out” of PPD.
Fact: PPD is a health issue. If you have moderate to severe
PPD you need to receive health care.
Myth: PPD affects me, but not my baby.
Fact: When a mom is depressed, she can have a hard time
interacting and bonding with her baby. This can affect the
baby’s development. The best way to make sure your baby
has a healthy start is to get help for yourself.
Myth: Only “weak”, “lazy” or “bad” moms get PPD.
Fact: All kinds of women from all walks of life can
experience PPD. You may feel tired or withdrawn and not
realize you are depressed because you are so busy caring
for your newborn. PPD is an illness; it is not about the kind
of person you are or your mothering skills.
Partner & Family Support
Families and partners can listen to your concerns, help you
make decisions and comfort you. You may need to share the
responsibilities of looking after other children and daily
housework like cooking or cleaning.
Self‐care is a way to make some positive changes in your life
that will help to lessen your depression. An easy way to
remember the basic steps in self‐care is to think of the word
“NESTS”. Each letter stands for one area of self‐care:
Nutrition ‐ Try to eat nutritious foods throughout the day.
Exercise – Get regular exercise to reduce stress and feel
better. Even a little physical activity can help!
Sleep & Rest ‐ Sleep is very important for both your
physical and mental health. It is worth the effort to work
on getting a good night’s sleep.
Time for Yourself – Take some time to care for yourself
each day, even if it is just for a few minutes.
Support – All new moms need support from others. Don’t
be afraid to ask for help and information! This includes
practical support like childcare, emotional support like
someone who can remind you of your strengths and
informational support such as finding out about resources
in your community.
Who should I talk to?
If you notice the above symptoms in yourself, your partner
or a family member, please contact your:
family doctor, obstetrician or psychiatrist
public health nurse
a registered psychologist 1‐800‐730‐0522
a registered clinical counselor 1‐800‐909‐6303
Pacific Postpartum Support Society (provides telephone
support) 604‐255‐7999 or www.postpartum.org
BC Reproductive Mental Health Program. Visit
www.bcmhas.ca (Programs & Services → Reproductive
Mental Health). This site has a range of information on
women’s mental health during pregnancy and the
postpartum period. You will find fact sheets, worksheets,
the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, and other
BC Partners for Mental Health & Addictions
Information. Visit www.heretohelp.bc.ca
Your Local Crisis Line. These phone lines aren’t only for
people in crisis. You can call for information on or if you
just need someone to talk to. If you are in distress, call
310‐6789—24 hours a day. Do not add 604, 778 or 250
before the number.
1800SUICIDE. If you’re thinking about suicide, call
1‐800‐SUICIDE (1‐800‐784‐2433) to get help right away,
any time of day or night. It’s a free call.
HealthLink BC. Call 811 or visit www.healthlinkbc.ca for
free, non‐emergency health information for anyone in your
family, including mental health information. Through 811,
you can speak with a nurse, a pharmacist or a dietitian.
Translation services are available in over 130 languages.
For deaf & hearing‐impaired assistance (TTY), call 711.
Is there help?
Yes! Often the best way to treat PPD is to combine a number of
different treatments like counseling, medication, support
groups and self care. Counseling includes education about your
illness, support and help with developing ways to cope.
If your depression is severe or counseling does not decrease the
symptoms, a doctor may prescribe medication. The decision on
whether to take medication should be based on a thoughtful
discussion of risks and benefits with your healthcare provider.
You may find it helpful to fill out the Edinburgh Postnatal
Depression Scale and show it to your doctor or midwife. This
simple tool will help you figure out if you are struggling with
depression. You may also want someone you trust to go with
you to appointments for support.
Many women who are experiencing PPD know there is something
wrong but don’t go for help because they are embarrassed or
afraid to talk about it. PPD is a medical condition – it’s OK to ask