Do I have postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression (or postnatal depression) is a euphemism, or a common phrase that labels in a very simplistic way, an experience that many women endure after the birth of a baby. Postpartum depression is not a definitive diagnosis in and of itself. Postpartum depression is a catch-all term that describes feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, inadequacy, and emptiness in early motherhood, that exceeds the experience of the “baby blues.” The term is often used to describe major depressive disorder, anxiety-based disorders, fear, panic, serious changes in sleep patterns, significant changes in appetite, relationship disruptions, and traumatic stress when these occur during pregnancy or the first year postpartum. Having a history of childhood abuse, traumatic childbirth, relationship abuse or violence, severe financial hardship, an infant with significant health challenges, and grief can all cause an experience that might be labelled postpartum depression.
Does my partner have postpartum depression?
Partners of birthing women have a greater-than-average risk of experiencing depression, anxiety, and/or traumatic stress in the perinatal period, as well. While we as a culture are getting much better at asking how women are feeling following childbirth, few care providers are able to take the time to assess the whole family. A psychologist trained in family mental health can support that assessment, and offer tools and techniques to balance the health of the whole family. Research has underscored what we already intuit: that supporting parents’ wellbeing is critical for both the parents themselves, and for their infant. Babies grow, develop and learn best when they feel safe and secure in a healthy family. If it is true that it “takes a village to raise a child,” I believe that it also takes a village to nurture parents. Seeking support after the birth of a baby opens an invitation to join this village.
What are my treatment options?
Treatments for postpartum depression, anxiety, and other disorders vary widely. Taking anti-depressant medication may help you to get through the phase of coping with a newborn, much in the same way that crutches will help you to be mobile when your ankle has been injured. Medication can stabilize the situation, and buy you time to heal. For individuals with biological imbalances in neurotransmitters, medication provides a route in itself to healing. For others, with more complex life concerns, medication alone may not provide a broad-enough path to health.
Psychotherapy in the postpartum period has been studied for decades and, for many, appropriate and integrated psychotherapy – offered with other health-supporting care – can lead to an experience of wellbeing that surpasses anything experienced before in life. When your body, your mind, and your heart are all in healthy alignment, when your relationships are fulfilling and growth oriented, and when you see yourself as a whole and worthy individual, joy, peace and contentment often follow.
I offer mental health assessment, group support for mothers, fathers, and couples, psychotherapy, resource referrals, and an on-going commitment to be part of your circle of nurture in the days, weeks, and months after the birth of your baby. Individual, group, and/or family counselling can be important components on your journey toward the experience of parenting you have always dreamed of enjoying.