Signs of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

There is something wrong with me. I can’t handle this and everyone else can.

I’m not a good mom.

I’m angry and frustrated all the time.

My mind is always racing.

I’m failing at motherhood

I’m exhausted but I can’t sleep.

I can’t connect with my baby

There are just some of the distressing thoughts that run through the minds of women who are struggling with postpartum depression and/or anxiety. It is estimated that 1 out of 6 women experience a perinatal mood disorder or strong feelings of depression and/or anxiety within a year of the birth of their child. Some of the common symptoms of postpartum depression and/or anxiety include:

  • Strong feelings of shame, failure & inadequacy

  • Excessive worry and fear (often related to the baby’s health)

  • Outbursts of crying and/or strong feelings of sadness, anger, or resentment

  • Difficulty connecting with your baby

  • Feelings of guilt or hopelessness

  • Lacking energy or motivation

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Anxiety or panic attacks

  • Extreme sleep deprivation and difficulty sleeping (beyond normal disruption of being a new mom)

  • Withdrawing from family and friends.

Some women experience these symptoms during pregnancy, others experience them immediately following the birth, and for others they may not show up for many months. Struggling with postpartum depression and/or anxiety can be incredibly distressing for the new mom and can have a significant impact on her mental health and well being and relationships with her family.  Although awareness around perinatal mood disorders is spreading, there is still a lot of shame and stigma tied to mental health. In our culture, we internalize a lot of messages about what it means to  “be a good mother”. We often learn that it’s not okay to show vulnerability or to reach out for help. We should be able to handle all of it on our own: be a good mother, never feel frustrated with your a children, have a good marriage, be in shape, be attractive, have a clean house and love yourself every step of the way. We are continually bombarded with photos on social media of other women who seem to be just doing that (at least that’s what we see in their photos). These high expectations combined with the overwhelming transition of settling into a new role and identity as a mother while lacking quality sleep can have a significant impact on women’s mental health and well being. To top it off, new moms are often isolated and lack the supportive network of other women that was once the norm in decades past. In our modern culture, we often have children at different times than our friends and we may be living far away from family. Many women do not have a network of people to help care for them and their little one.  Reaching out for help is difficult in our culture but we were never meant to do this all on our own. After all raising a family takes a village and there is no shame in looking outside of our immediate network for additional support. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety, I urge you to reach out for counselling or to check out some other resources:

Pacific Postpartum Support Society offers telephone support and groups for women and their partners:

Pacific Postpartum Support Society has also put out a self help book and other publications on postpartum depression and anxiety:

I’m a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor in Vancouver, BC specializing in women’s health including reproductive and perinatal mental health and disordered eating and body image.

Lorilee Keller