The month of May is just beginning, and from now until the end of June we're going to take an in-depth look at various issues pertaining to parental care, and the parenting experience. This is the first in a series of posts dedicated to an open discussion of depression during pregnancy or after childbirth. We will focus this month on maternal prenatal and postpartum depression, then address the topic from the paternal perspective throughout the month of June.
Until recently, depression experienced around the time of motherhood was a taboo subject. Expectant mothers often undergo a lot of stress, often torturing themselves with notions of being a perfect mother. The reality is that there is no such thing, and most of us simply do the best we can.
After the baby is born, the pressure is on to feel like your world is complete, and your life completely fulfilled. New mothers can become exceedingly stressed and anxious, particularly when they don't feel as happy as they thought they would with the arrival of their new baby.
Statistics show that both forms of depression are relatively common in Canadian women. The Public Health Agency of Canada released a 2014 report that published the results of their Canadian Maternity Experience survey. The results tell us that:
7.5% of women surveyed experienced symptoms of postpartum depression.
15.5% were diagnosed with depression before becoming pregnant.
12.5% reported that most days in the year before childbirth were very stressful.
13% had little to no support during their pregnancy.
The statistics above highlight the fact that non-ideal pregnancy experiences are a lot more common than we might assume. They also show that a surprising number of women experienced a highly stressful pregnancy, which differs greatly from the image we often consume of radiant expectant mothers who are excited about their future. As such, it seems that pregnancy-related depression and/or stress is not as rare a phenomenon as we previously thought.
In order to discuss these issues in more depth, let's examine the definitions and symptoms of these two forms of pregnancy-related depressions:
Prenatal depression is a form of clinical depression that can affect a woman during pregnancy. If left undiagnosed or untreated, it is often seen as the precursor for postpartum depression.
The symptoms below are signs of prenatal depression if they occur consistently for a period of two weeks or more. Most women will experience these symptoms from time to time, but it's not clinical prenatal depression if it only occurs occasionally:
Prenatal depression is more likely to occur during the first or third trimester of the pregnancy, as these are the times when the expectant mother's body undergoes the most drastic changes.
Postpartum depression is a form of clinical depression that occurs in new mothers after giving birth to their newborn, as opposed to before giving birth.
The symptoms of postpartum depression are almost identical to those of prenatal depression. Additionally, there are two main symptoms which can occur in postpartum depression which differ from prenatal depression:
Watching a loved one deal with depression can be very upsetting. We all experience times when our loved one is having a bad day, but depression is another level entirely. It can truly be heart-breaking for the observer of the person who is clinically depressed.
In order to deal with the situation, it's important to remember a number of things that will hopefully help you stay focused and optimistic about the future of your loved one's emotional and mental health:
While most parents will have occasional days where they experience what's known as the 'baby blues', this isn't the same as clinical depression. Clinical depression, no matter what type it is, is defined in terms of duration and intensity. Everyone has good and bad days, but it is only clinical depression if you experience such negative feelings intensely, for a long period of time.
However, all parents can benefit from support strategies. Parenting can be stressful and difficult, particularly when you experience days that make you feel like parenting doesn't make you as happy as the outside world seems to think it should. Take comfort in the fact that every parent experiences these feelings from time to time: this doesn't make you a bad parent, it simply makes you human.
If you are worried you may be suffering from prenatal or postpartum depression, or if you think you know someone who is, don't despair. There are many resources dedicated to helping you, including the Toronto Distress Centre. Contact their 24/7 helpline at: 416.408.HELP (4357)
We will be continuing our discussion throughout this month with programs and methods that may offer support to sufferers of prenatal or postpartum depression. Subscribe to our blog to stay up to date with invaluable information about depression during and after pregnancy.
*Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/advocacy purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical or psychological condition. Please consult your own healthcare provider for individual advice regarding your specific situation and needs.
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