Perinatal Mental Health refers to mental health during pregnancy and through the postpartum period. The most common perinatal mental health disorders (PMDs) include depression and anxiety, however PMDs also include obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar, and postpartum psychosis. This blog serves to provide pregnant and postpartum people with digestible snippets of information about living with perinatal mood disorders. To start, we would like to share some basic information about PMDs.
What causes PMD?
PMD are often a result of changing hormones, bodies, activities, and lifestyles. Pregnant people experience changes in their social role from an individual to a parent, they have changes to their bodies like weight-gain and stretch marks, they have changes and strains on their relationships, they have increased fatigue, and often, increased stress.
Who experiences PMDs?
PMDs are common. 1 in 5 pregnant people experience a PMD. Some people are at an increased risk for PMDs such as those who have experienced a PMD before or who have had depression or anxiety before or currently. Other risk factors include isolation – which is particularly important to consider during this time, a history of severe PMS, and unplanned or complicated pregnancies.
What are the symptoms?
· Lack of energy
· Changes to sleep patterns
· Changes to appetite
· Changes to libido
· High anxiety, restlessness, irritability
· Feeling guilty
· Loss of interest in activities
· Feeling sad, empty, numb
· Thoughts of self harm
Link to EPDS
The symptoms of PMD can vary widely from person to person. The Edinburg Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS) is a self-assessment tool that can be used both during pregnancy and after your baby is born to assess your mood. There is a link to the EPDS here and also in the resources section of our website. If after doing this assessment your score is elevated or you have ongoing concerns, please follow up with your family doctor or mental health provider.
(Please note - if you are contemplating harming your self or your baby seek help by calling 911, COAST, an emergency mental health line, your primary care provider, or someone you trust who can help you stay safe )
If you think you may be struggling with a perinatal mental health disorder or if you just feel like you need a bit of help feeling back to your self here are some strategies to try
Take care of your physical needs - eat healthy foods, drink water, rest and sleep when you feel you need it, move your body
Connect with people - whether it's your partner, friend, or family member, try to connect with someone you trust to honestly share how your are feeling.
Professional support - connecting with a counsellor or therapist who specializes in perinatal mental health is extremely helpful for many people. Find a list of local providers under the Resources page of our website.
You can also find free printable pamphlets about coping with PMD in pregnancy and postpartum under the Downloads page of our website.