Pre & Postpartum Depression

What is pre and postpartum depression?

Anxiety and depression are common during the perinatal period (prepartum and postpartum). 12-20% of pregnant people experience anxiety and/or depression during this period, with many people experiencing both. The “baby blues” is another common experience that occurs shortly after giving birth but often goes away on its own within the first week after delivery. Perinatal anxiety and depression can also occur in men, same-sex partners, and adoptive parents.

A combination of biological, psychological and social factors can put us at risk for anxiety and depression in the perinatal period. These can include high levels of stress, low social support, a personal or family history of anxiety or depression, difficulty conceiving, being a younger parent, having multiples, and pregnancy and birth complications including early delivery. Perinatal anxiety and depression can occur at any point during pregnancy and up to 1 year after birth.

Common symptoms of perinatal anxiety include:

  • Increased heart rate, shallow breathing, tightness in chest
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upset stomach, nausea and diarrhea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Worry thoughts about harm coming to your baby
  • Avoidance of letting others help with your baby
  • Common symptoms of perinatal depression include:
  • Frequent crying
  • Feelings of sadness, anger, and/or guilt
  • Feeling numb
  • Thoughts of harming your baby
  • Experiential avoidance of social relationships

If you are experiencing more than two of these symptoms, know that perinatal anxiety and depression are treatable.

Though many parents do not want to take medication because of potential effects on the baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This should be discussed with your doctor, whether you do or do not want to take medication. Counselling is an excellent option for support and coping skills during this period.

Counselling at Westwood includes the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for perinatal anxiety and depression. In CBT for perinatal issues we focus on:

  • Mindful noticing of our thoughts and feelings.
  • Challenging our negative thoughts and replacing them with more accurate thoughts.
  • Increasing communication between partners and actively seeking support (some couples sessions may be suggested).
  • Engaging in self-care through NESTS-S (nutrition, exercise, sleep and relaxation, time for self, and support from others)