Pregnancy and Postpartum Mental Health

Pregnancy and postpartum are not meant to be times of suffering.

Perinatal mental health is an umbrella-term that refers to the struggles experienced during pregnancy and postpartum. While we would like for these months to be times of celebration, it isn’t always this simple. Moreover, the statistics show us that mental health are a significant struggle for women and their partners during the perinatal stage. For example, about 1 in 7 women will experience postpartum depression, 1 in 5 mothers experience prenatal anxiety, and 1 in 10 dads struggle with anxiety and depression following the birth of their baby.                  

Mental health in pregnancy and postpartum is treatable! However, many parents are cautious about reaching out. Struggles are often dismissed because of false assumptions (e.g. “it’s just hormones” or “I’ll feel better after I get some sleep”). Sometimes the barrier is due to fear of being judged. It’s hard to acknowledge that you feel a lack of connection to your little one or that you can’t stop yelling at your family members.

When it comes to perinatal mental health, I work with the following framework created by Postpartum Support International:

You are not alone.
You are not to blame.
With help, you will be well.

As much as having a new baby involves adjustments, it is not normal or fair to feel debilitated by that distress. If you are struggling with any of these following issues, reach out. Prenatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders can improve, and you deserve to feel better.

Signs of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders: 

  • Persistent sadness
  • Feeling overwhelmed, stressed or worried
  • Irritation or rage
  • Repetitive anxious thoughts
  • Sleep struggles
  • Feeling uneasy, empty or irritable
  • Unable to stop crying
  • Panic attacks
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless or guilty
  • Avoidance and withdrawal
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Disinterest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Fear of being alone
  • Fear of separating from baby
  • Fear of being alone with baby
  • Difficulty focusing

How might mental health struggles show up during this time?

Mental Health in Pregnancy and Postpartum. Counselling services online and Kitchener, ON
  • Difficult Birth/Pregnancy: You are unable to stop thinking about negative events surrounding a traumatic birth or difficult pregnancy. e.g. NICU visits, miscarriages, fertility struggles, elective abortions
  • Traumatic childhood experiences: Raising a child can trigger us to reflect on our own traumatic childhood experiences.
  • Intrusive thoughts: E.g. thoughts of harming the baby or yourself. Voicing these thoughts to a therapist does NOT mean a call to the Children’s Aid Society. Intrusive thoughts are very common with Postpartum-OCD and can be treated.
  • Low self-confidence: E.g. questioning your ability to parent well, feeling other parents are “doing better” than you, struggles to balance work and home life.
  • Creating attachment with baby: A common struggle with postpartum depression is the difficulty in bonding with your baby.
  • Anxiety: Worries about your upcoming delivery, parenting skills, the health of the baby or how others may perceive you are some of the common anxieties that are present during pregnancy and postpartum months.
  • Adjustment Struggles: Learning to manage your sense of Self (your unique needs, personality traits, interests, etc.) while also balancing the responsibilities of parenthood.
  • Grief and loss: E.g. Miscarriages, still births and unsuccessful IVF treatment
  • Family Adjustments: Meeting the emotional needs of multiple family members. Setting boundaries with family members.
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