Perinatal mental health is a topic that always needs to be discussed more.
When we birth our babies and enter the stage of parenthood, it can be challenging to know what is normal, what is not and where and how to get help.
When I became a mother, over 9 years ago, I had a great support system, I felt confident and empowered. I had a mostly non traumatic birth.
As the days passed with my child who was a high contact sleeper (IE: I could never put him down), experienced colic and was, in general, a highly sensitive baby.
I was both overjoyed and exhausted.
I was alternating between fumbling with it all and feeling completely in charge. I was teary, but within "normal" range.
I worried about all the things I thought were normal.
Going in a car (and the possibility of car crashes, fiery explosions, SIDS)
Standing near an open window in my third floor apartment (What happened if I dropped him out of the window?)
Sleeping (Will he keep breathing? Will I roll over on him? )
I became fixated on what I was eating (because surely I was the one at fault for his colic!), very attached to doing everything "perfectly", and unknowingly, experiencing Postpartum Anxiety.
I did not leave my child with anyone for over 5 months and only finally did when I needed to go have a filling replaced at the dentist (and I cried in the car on my way there because I was so worried about leaving him. Despite knowing and trusting my very experienced friend who was with him.)
What I didn't know at the time was that 10-15% of new parents experience a Postpartum Mood Disorder.
That can include Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum OCD, PTSD, Postpartum Psychosis and/or Postpartum Mania.
The good news is that they are treatable, common and you can get better!
How do you know if you may be experiencing a Postpartum Mood Disorder?
You will notice that many of the signs are also signs of the "Baby Blues" (which is NOT Postpartum Depression)
Mood swings Irritability Sadness Trouble making decisions
Changes in appetite
Weepiness Feeling like you can’t cope
Extreme fatigue Inability to sleep
(The following signs are the more serious ones to look out for)
Lack of joy
Racing thoughts or panic attacks
Extreme crying Don’t want to be alone with baby
Visions or extreme fear of harm coming to baby Obsessive thoughts or actions
If you or your family or friends are seeing signs that MAY be indicative of a postpartum mood disorder, here is what you can do!
Reach out to your medical health team! If you are finding it difficult to get in to see your family doctor, reach out to your local Public Health Nurses.
They are often very well versed in recognizing Postpartum Mood Disorders.
If you are unsure, here is a link to an assessment that you can do to see where you are at.
Also, the need for a cross cultural assessment tool has been seen and created by McGill University!
Know that you are not alone. Know that help is out there! Know that you can work through this and get to a better place!
If you need someone to talk to, I strongly recommend Olivia Scobie.
She is based in Ontario and specializes in perinatal mood and adjustment, birth trauma, pregnancy loss, guilt and overwhelm.
You can find her on Facebook and here.
This was me once I had moved through the acute experience of Postpartum Anxiety.
In one of the places that held me and soothed my soul so much when it needed.
For me, counselling, nature, botanical medicine and a strong support system was all I needed. Looking back, I wish I had spoken to my doctor and considered pharmacutical options.
When I was pregnant with my second, I knew what to expect. I knew how to cope and I prepared.
I created an even stronger support system. I planned for the intensity of the postpartum period. I did all I could to reduce external stresses and had folks lined up to be there for me as I weathered the challenges.
I did experience Postpartum Anxiety again, but I expected it. I planned for it.
I arranged weekly check ins with a Public Health Nurse.
I was open to all options for treatment if it became unmanageable.
My experiences as I became a mother and then a mother of two, shape the work I do.
I teach expectant parents who are unsure, stressed and worried about bringing baby home how to plan, prepare and thrive in the postpartum period!
We make a thorough plan covering all aspects of new parenthood, we prep food, we gather resources and we learn tools like mindfulness, to help ground us and guide us through the wildness of becoming a parent.
Reach out if you need guidance, are pregnant and want to plan for the postpartum period, have a new baby and need help!
I'm here for you.