Photo credit: Melanie Gordon
As a new mama and holistic nutritionist, postpartum depression is something that I'm familiar with but have not personally suffered from. However, I know that many mamas do and are suffering right now, and many are suffering in silence. When Lindsay Forsey, founder of Tenth Moon reached out to me and asked for my support to create awareness for Postpartum Depression Awareness Month I was more than happy to share on the blog. This post is a Q&A with Lindsay. I hope you find it very informative.
This awareness month aims to increase public understanding around the importance of postnatal wellness and to build community support for mothers struggling with this common and potentially devastating mental illness. It is already official in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and it should be in all provinces across Canada.
How common is postpartum depression?
Many women experience some form of baby blues after giving birth, but for some women, these so-called "baby blues" may be a sign of something more problematic: postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression and perinatal mood disorders affect approximately 15 to 30 per cent of mothers within the first few years of giving birth. It’s believed that this statistic is, in fact, much higher, as so many women do not speak out about their struggles because they are unable to find the help they need or to avoid the stigma associated with mental illness.
What's the difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression?
It’s natural to feel overwhelmed, extremely emotional and beyond exhausted in the early postpartum days. This is considered the "baby blues" and, for most women, the intensity of these feelings subsides within a couple of weeks. If these feelings – mood swings, anxiety, fear, fatigue – continue or worsen, a woman should speak to her doctor. It’s important to know that while most cases of postpartum depression occur within three months of giving birth, it can happen anytime in the first year after giving birth. This article from Women’s College Hospital is a great resource for more details on understanding PPD.
Where can women find resources and support?
Many hospitals have excellent programs to support women who are struggling with new motherhood. Joining a local mothers’ group is a great way to connect with other moms who can empathize with sleepless nights and inconsolable crying – and celebrate snuggles and first smiles, too. Parenting and Early Years Centres often have resources for PPD and Perinatal Mood Disorder Awareness has links to helpful organizations across Canada.
What can women do to help prepare themselves for common postpartum challenges (physical and emotional)?
Motherhood isn’t meant to be a solo act.
One of the most important things to do is talk with your partner, family and friends before baby arrives about how they can offer support, especially in the first month after giving birth. If you find yourself without many people to ask for help, try to visit a local women’s centre or connect with a neighbour you trust. You can also reach out to local doula groups, as many will provide their services – including postpartum visits – on a sliding scale.
It’s incredibly helpful having a village of folks around who you can rely on to do some laundry (because there will be plenty!) or wipe away your tears and give you a hug when you need it. A lot of first-time mothers say that they wish someone had been more honest with them about how intense and challenging postnatal life can be. Giving birth and then caring for an infant immediately afterwards is probably the hardest work a woman will do in her life. Think: exhaustion, lactation, surging hormones, hunger and dehydration.
As much as is possible, stock up on necessities, like maternity and nursing pads, as well as nutritious snacks and TLC essentials, like an herbal sitz bath for perineal healing, to help ease the transition from pregnancy to new motherhood.
Don’t feel guilty about not keeping up with your usual household routine and try to rest as much as possible. A mentor of mine says a woman and her baby should spend week one in the bed, week two on the bed and week three around the bed. There are obvious impracticalities to this lifestyle, especially for women having their second or third baby, but it’s something to aspire to.
Why is postnatal care so important?
Women who feel cared for and supported in the raw, life-changing experiences of childbirth and beyond are better able to cope with the challenges they will undoubtedly face and thrive in their journey into motherhood. (It’s a wild ride!) When women struggle to cope in their postnatal lives, their babies and other children can suffer and their partners are more likely to become depressed. Maternal wellness is about family wellness and building strong, healthy communities.
This information is not presented as medical advice. Always ask your healthcare provider if you have any concerns regarding childbirth or postpartum depression.