Perinatal Mental Health
Perinatal mental health addresses the concerns of women before and after the birth of their child. It can affect any mother regardless of age, race, culture, income, or education.
The journey to parenthood is an emotional time for both moms and dads. Emotions could range from joy and excitement, to stress, to health concerns, and to the actual birth itself. Pregnancy could mean significant hormonal, mood, dietary, and sleep issues. Navigating this time of their lives and preparation for parenthood may be a challenge for some.
It is important to know that there is help for perinatal depression.
Prenatal (before birth) and postpartum (after birth) depression are common occurrences for many new mothers around the world. Let’s understand both a little better.
This is a mood disorder that occurs prior to birth. Pregnant women may feel extreme sadness, anxious, fatigued, scared. During their pregnancy, women may experience an increase in the severity of an existing mental health issue.
A woman with self-esteem issues may find her expectations of herself spiralling out of control during her pregnancy, leading to extreme thoughts of inadequacy and shame. Someone who has severe anxiety may find her perfectionistic tendencies affecting her relationships with loved ones, making her pregnancy a difficult time.
Pregnant women may also be dealing with other issues that lead to depression, for example, intimate partner violence, an unplanned pregnancy, lack of support, substance use, or other issues such as housing, finances, etc.
Counselling for depression during pregnancy is important so that the expectant mom could take better care of herself, and be in a position to bond with her newborn child. It may also help to decrease the risk of postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression occurs after the birth of a child, and can range from mild to severe. In addition to feelings of extreme sadness and exhaustion, new mothers may also be feeling overwhelmed, restless, irritable, fatigued due to a lack of sleep, and they may overeat to cope.
They may also feel an emptiness, or experience feelings of hopelessness, an inability to concentrate, and possibly suicidal thoughts. These feelings stand in the way of bonding between mother and child, and significantly impacts her relationship with others.
During this time, new mothers may also experience intrusive thoughts that question their worthiness as a mother, about their newborn dying, or their ability to care or help their child. They may entertain intrusive thoughts that are dark, and unhealthy. As a result, they are not able to enjoy their time as a new parent, or to take care of their child.
It is important to add that new fathers may also experience postpartum depression. A newborn child changes the dynamics in the marital relationship, and brings a new level of responsibility and adulthood that can be overwhelming. The lack of sleep, the constant attention to the newborn child, feeding, changing, etc, can lead to depression, especially if struggles with mood was a factor prior to birth.
Similar types of treatment given to mothers could also be beneficial to fathers with paternal postpartum depression.
When to See a Counsellor
If you are a new parent, and you find that your feelings of sadness have lasted for more than 2 weeks whether it be prenatal or postpartum, it would be helpful for you to meet with a counsellor. If you are feeling overwhelmed, empty, or helpless, please call us.
Our perinatal counsellors are trained to help you feel better, make sense of your intrusive thoughts, learn strategies to cope, and more. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a modality that is often used in treating depression, and is helpful for perinatal mental health as well.
Meet our Perinatal Mental Health counsellors:
When to Call for Help
If you have experienced intrusive thoughts of hurting yourself or your child, talk to your counsellor about it.
If you do not have a counsellor, you could:
- Call 911, or
- Talk to a close friend or family member
- Reach out to your medical care practitioner
- Ask someone to take you to the nearest ER as soon as possible, or
- Call the BC Crisis Line 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE), or
- Call Talk Suicide Canada 1-833-456-4566