Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety
The journey to parenthood is a significant role transition and identity shift. The adjustment of the family unit is unique, as are the potential challenges. Perinatal mood disorders, including postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA) are two such hurdles that one or both parents may face after welcoming their new addition. People from all backgrounds can be affected by PPD or PPA. In a 2018 Canadian survey, it was found that 1 in 4 new moms were affected, with more than 40% having received no treatment (Gheorghe et al., 2021).
For many expecting and new mothers, it may be tricky to discriminate PPD/PPA symptoms from those that can be explained by physical changes or sleep deprivation. Postpartum anxiety may be less understood and more difficult to detect given the worry that naturally comes with the new and very real responsibility of caring for a newborn. Caregivers may experience changes in mood related to hormones in the first month postpartum and following weaning (Collier, 2021). In the first few weeks after birth, emotional fluctuations can be expected and normal. It is more concerning however, if symptoms such as sadness, irritability, extreme fears, or lack of interest are persistent and interfere with your daily life (sleep, diet, relationships) and infant bonding (PSI, n.d.). New parents may find themselves enduring this experience in shame and isolation. Further, we are overwhelmed with media images of ideals that feel unrealistic to meet.
In the previously mentioned survey, over half of respondents who had symptoms of PPD and PPA reported having a strong sense of community support and belonging. This is an important consideration and a humbling reminder that these concerns might be present even if your support network is strong. It is no surprise that new parents were negatively affected by the pandemic when it was estimated that rates of postpartum depression tripled (Fritsch, 2023). The pandemic strained social connections and changed the notion of a “village” with respect to childrearing support (Fritsch, 2023). Young families may still be struggling to navigate the aftermath of this experience. Solo parents are at a higher risk of PPD and PPA (Collier, 2021) and may also find it more challenging to access affordable support on a single income. This is inclusive of many modern families in our current economic climate, with the possibility of added financial strain while taking parental leave.
What are some Available Resources?
Counselling can be a great resource and dedicated self-care practice to address these symptoms and feel nourished in your parenthood transition. Taking care of your mental wellness supports you in your parenting goals, sets up positive modeling behaviours for young children and can equip you with tools for years to come. At your initial postpartum visit(s), your obstetrician, midwife, or postpartum nurse commonly screens for postpartum depression using the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (link below). It is important to remember that PPD symptoms can arise anytime in the first year. When your support team and those who know you best are informed of these signs, they can be alert for any changes undetected in oneself.
If you are preparing for or currently pregnant, have recently given birth, or are navigating new parenthood, affordable counselling that can be accessed virtually from home can offer accessible support. Our intern therapist here at High Point Psychology has relevant knowledge and experience with young families in maternal, infant and child health. If you need support, connect with our team to schedule a free meet and greet with Marcy. You can contact the high point team at email@example.com or you can read more about Marcy and our other psychologists on our website at https://www.highpointpsychology.com/about-high-point
Link for Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale: https://perinatology.com/calculators/Edinburgh%20Depression%20Scale.htm
Blog post written by Marcy Kralik and Dr. Andrea Stelnicki.
*The information contained in this blog post is based on a narrative review of available literature. Some studies may have been unintentionally omitted. You are advised to speak with a healthcare professional to determine if the information is appropriate to your specific circumstances.*
Collier, S. (2021). Postpartum anxiety is invisible, but common and treatable. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/postpartum-anxiety-an-invisible-disorder-that-can-affect-new-mothers-202107302558
Fritsch, E. (2023). Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on pregnant and postpartum women: Where is the village? Psychoanalytic Psychology, 40(3), 159–167. https://doi.org/10.1037/pap0000426
Gheorghe, M., Varin, M., Wong, S. L., Baker, M., Grywacheski, V., & Orpana, H. (2021). Symptoms of postpartum anxiety and depression among women in Canada: findings from a national cross-sectional survey. Canadian Journal of Public Health: A Publication of The Canadian Public Health Association, 112(2), 244–252. https://doi.org/10.17269/s41997-020-00420-4
Postpartum Support International. (n.d.). Perinatal mental health disorders. https://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/