While you may expect to feel happiness and joy, it’s also perfectly normal to experience feelings of sadness, depression or anxiety while pregnant and/or after giving birth.
According to MotherFirst (2010), Saskatchewan’s Maternal Mental Health strategy, 20 per cent of people experience severe depression or anxiety during pregnancy or after childbirth. This means that 1 in 5 people experience poor mental health related to pregnancy and childbirth. While some feelings are considered normal, other feelings and behaviours might mean that you should reach out for support.
The “Baby Blues”
In the first week or two following the birth of your baby, you may find yourself feeling:
This is known as the “Baby Blues”. You might not feel this way all the time, as maternity patients may also feel happy, talkative and full of energy. These mood changes are often a normal reaction to the physical effect of birth and quick and dramatic drop in your hormone levels after birth. You may also be tired and sore from birthing your baby. For most maternity patients, the “baby blues” go away by the time your baby is about two weeks old.
Depression and Anxiety during Pregnancy and after Birth
For some people, feelings of depression and anxiety can start during pregnancy, and do not go away within two weeks of giving birth. You may continue to feel sad or anxious, cry often, have trouble sleeping, not feel that you can take care of yourself or your baby or even worry that you might harm yourself or your baby. This is postpartum depression or anxiety and it is more serious than the “baby blues”. It can last up to a year after your baby’s birth and have negative effects for both you and your baby.
You're not alone in how you're feeling, and it’s important to ask for help. Talk to your doctor, nurse, midwife or mental health worker about how you're feeling. They will help you complete the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Screen (EPDS) to see if you might be experiencing perinatal depression or anxiety. You can also complete the EPDS yourself and share your results with your health-care provider.
Taking Care of Yourself and Managing Your Mental Health
Depression, anxiety and the “baby blues” are common and can be quite serious, but they can be treated. Ask for help as soon as you start to feel any symptoms. Without asking for help or getting treatment, your symptoms and feelings can have lasting effects for many years.
There are steps you can take at home that might help in relieving stress and anxiety when pregnant or after giving birth:
- Eat healthy, nutritious meals and snacks
- Surround yourself with support from friends, family, professional support providers (e.g. postpartum doulas) and babysitters
- Reach out to loved ones
- Get enough sleep
- Let others help you so you can rest and do things that you like to do
- Avoid spending too much time alone
- Do some light activity, like walking
- Avoid alcohol and substance use
- Look for support groups in your community and online
- Talk to your health-care provider, public health nurse or a mental health professional
Sometimes these treatments will be used to help you strengthen your mental health:
- Psychotherapy (like cognitive behavioural therapy)
- Medication (talk to your doctor or midwife to learn about medications that can be safely taken while pregnant and breastfeeding)
- Stress reduction programs
- Mobile Crisis services
- Addiction Services
Contact your health-care provider to discuss your mental health needs. Together, you and your health-care provider may decide what supports or medications are appropriate for you. If you feel you are not coping well and/or are thinking of hurting yourself or others, call your health-care provider, HealthLine 811 or 911.
In Saskatchewan, HealthLine 811 provides a Maternal Wellness Program for women experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety after the birth of their baby. Referral to the program is made through your local public health nurse. Once enrolled in the program, a mental health professional will provide support to you by telephone.
You can also call HealthLine 811 at any time during your pregnancy or after the birth of your baby to talk to a mental health professional or registered nurse without a referral. Read more about HealthLine 811.