Postpartum Part 2: Let’s Talk About Perinatal Depression and Anxiety

If each woman, each family, experiences parenthood in a different way, I believe that the majority would be struck by the common feeling of isolation.

Because all of a sudden our life schedule is changed, we go to bed early, we are tired, we no longer work. Isolation can also come from the fact that we have made choices that are different from those of our friends in terms of breastfeeding, bedtime routine, clothing for our child or the way we choose to structure our day.

When emotions are running high as they are in the months following childbirth, and sleep is in short supply, it is easy to feel isolated or judged. But I am speaking to all mothers when I say that it is important to overcome this fear and keep our ties with our loved ones. This is how we will realize that in reality, we are all in the same boat.

How can we break this isolation?

First of all, we must accept that all families are different. Stop trying to impose your way of doing things on others, even if it is done in a caring way. When someone is not doing well, don’t give them advice. This sounds strange at first, but that’s why in therapy we don’t usually give advice or solutions! Instead, we need to listen to the person talk about their issues, maybe show them the situation from different angles that they can’t see, help them brainstorm, so that in the end, they make their own decisions.

The key is really empathy. Listening to each other, checking in with our friends, our daughters, our nieces. Don’t judge their approach to parenthood and be careful: in particularly emotional times, people tend to close in on themselves. Yet it is the connection with others that helps us to get out of depression and anxiety.

Perinatal Anxiety: Less Known, Just as Common

In the media and in general, there is more and more talk about postpartum depression, but there is still little talk about the anxiety experienced during pregnancy or after childbirth. Otherwise, when the subject is discussed, it is done in a way that normalizes the phenomenon.

Becoming a mother is one of the most important transitions in a woman’s life and it can bring some upheaval. This new role brings a lot of meaning to our lives, a lot of positive elements, but it is also very difficult on our mental health! We humans are like that, we don’t like change.

After the birth of a baby, we suddenly have to take care of a fragile little being, learn to guess what his cries mean, make sure he gains weight, sleeps well, doesn’t lack anything. Not to mention all the worrying that goes along with breastfeeding!

If it is “normal” to have fears when you become a parent, know that it is not “normal” to live with intrusive thoughts. If your worries are keeping you from functioning, it’s time to get help. This is true for new moms and it is also true for their spouses.

The way anxiety is portrayed as a societal phenomenon means that many women don’t seek the help they need because they tell themselves that they are not depressed, they are just anxious. But anxiety can be treated too! Just because more and more people are suffering from it doesn’t mean that you have to live with its symptoms.

More and more people are becoming diabetic, but that doesn’t mean that every new case of diabetes shouldn’t be taken seriously and treated with insulin (or the appropriate treatment).

Let’s learn to identify perinatal anxiety and offer tools to those who need them. My team and I are doing just that, thanks to the support of the Montreal General Hospital Foundation.

How Can We Help?

The most important thing is to be attentive and present. And if you see that the new mother really needs psychological help, you can also direct her to the appropriate resources:

  • Social Info Line: 811
  • Her local CLSC and the nurse who visited her at home after the birth
  • Her family doctor
  • In case of an emergency: the Montreal General Hospital’s mental health emergency department

Partners’ Distress: A Factor Not to Be Overlooked

Depression and perinatal anxiety in the mother are becoming part of the vocabulary, but what about the partners?

Thanks to you, in short, we are able to help even more women and men who need it. With a little help and the right resources, it is possible to overcome these challenges. My son is two years old today and I am happy to say that his mother is doing well, that she is enjoying life at work and at home.

– Dr. Vi Nguyen