Last Reviewed: April 2017
Dealing with the Unexpected
Postpartum Mood Disorders (PMD)
- A postpartum mood disorder (PMD) is a medical condition that requires assessment and treatment. It is recommended that you visit your health care provider to get help.
- PMD affects 1 in 5 new mothers.
- PMD isn't anyone's fault.
- Postpartum psychosis is rare but must be treated immediately.
Postpartum mood disorders (PMD) affect 1 in 5 new mothers.
PMD is a group of disorders that most commonly includes postpartum depression and anxiety disorders. On very rare occasions, mothers may suffer from postpartum psychosis.
A PMD is a medical condition that requires assessment and treatment. It is recommended that you visit your health care provider to get help.
Approximately 1 in 5 women experience mood disorders during pregnancy or up to 1 year after giving birth or adopting a baby.
Many mothers feel too ashamed or scared to tell their family or doctor about their PMD symptoms, so they don't get the help they need.
Risk factors: who gets postpartum mood disorders?
While any new mother can experience a postpartum mood disorder, your risk increases if:
- Being over-anxious is part of your personality.
- You were diagnosed with depression or anxiety during your pregnancy.
- You have a personal or family history of mental illness.
- Your pregnancy was unplanned.
- You're dealing with a stressful life event such as job loss, moving or the loss of a loved one.
- You're new to Canada or a teenaged mother.
- You do not have enough social support.
- You're having relationship difficulties or are experiencing family violence or conflict.
- You have low self-esteem.
- You live in a low-income household or you’re having money problems.
- You experienced complications during pregnancy or while giving birth such as a premature birth, multiple births, birth trauma or a caesarean section.
Postpartum mood disorder signs and symptoms
Most new mothers experience mood swings and sudden emotional changes - also known as the "baby blues." The baby blues usually start 3-5 days after baby arrives, but last only about 2 weeks.
If your "baby blues" last longer than 2 weeks, you might have a Postpartum Mood Disorder.
Do you have a postpartum mood disorder (PMD)?
Men can also experience postpartum mood disorders.
Visit Postpartum Men to learn more.
If you're experiencing or feeling any of these emotional or physical symptoms, you might have a PMD:
- You're worried all the time.
- You don't feel like yourself.
- You're sad and tearful.
- You feel like you can't cope and you can't concentrate.
- You don't have any interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy.
- You feel hopeless or frustrated.
- You feel irritable or angry.
- You feel guilty and ashamed, or you think you aren't a good mother.
- You're not bonding with your baby; you don't feel an emotional connection to your baby or you're afraid to be alone with the baby.
- You're having repeated scary thoughts about your baby.
- You feel exhausted, but you can't sleep.
- You're not eating enough or eating too much.
- You're unable to sleep when baby sleeps.
- You feel over excited or have too much energy.
- You can't sit still and want to keep moving all the time.
- You feel like you can't breathe, or feel other signs of anxiety like aches, chest pain, numbness, tingling or a "lump" in your throat.
If you're suffering from PMD you might feel all, some or just one of these symptoms.
What to do if you have a PMD
If you think - or know - you have a PMD:
- Don't blame yourself.
- Ask for help.
- Take care of yourself.
- Take time for yourself.
- Get counselling.
- Consider medication as part of your treatment.
! Postpartum psychosis
Postpartum psychosis affects only 1 in 1000 mothers.
Postpartum psychosis is a very rare but serious mental condition that threatens new mothers and their babies.
A woman suffering from postpartum psychosis might:
- Hear or see things that aren't there.
- Think people are trying to harm her or her baby.
- Feel confused or out of touch with reality.
If you're experiencing postpartum psychosis symptoms GET HELP.
You need immediate treatment and should NOT be left alone or alone with your baby.
Call your doctor, go to your local emergency department or call a crisis intervention line NOW.
If you do not need emergency assistance, you can also call:
Peel Public Health - 905-799-7700
TeleHealth Ontario - 1-866-797-0000 (or TYY 1-866-797-0007)
Peel Postpartum Family Support Line 905-459-8441
Spectra Community Support Services 905-459-7777 (905-584-7770 in Caledon)
How partners, family and friends can help
- Help is available.
- PMD won't last forever.
- Recovery is just a phone call away.
Your partner, family and friends can help you recover from a PMD by:
- Listening to you and supporting your feelings.
- Encouraging you to seek professional help.
- Developing a relationship with the baby.
- Asking you how they can help.
- Educating themselves about postpartum mood disorders.
- Finding someone you can talk to.
- Not taking your behaviour or symptoms personally.
- Reassuring you that a PMD isn't your fault.
It is not helpful when others:
- Tell you to "snap out of it."
- Deny your problem by saying, "You should be happy to have this baby."
- Criticize or judge you, which may cause you to feel guilty.
- Withdraw their support and reject you.
Speak with a Peel Public Health Nurse
Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Caledon residents call free of charge at 905-584-2216