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Many people are familiar with the term postpartum depression, which refers to depression after a pregnancy. Perinatal depression is much broader. It refers to depression that occurs both during pregnancy and up to one year after your baby’s birth.
Perinatal depression is common - as many as one in five women will experience it. It affects your mind, body, emotions, behaviours and habits.
A mother's depression can also affect her emotional attachment to her baby and her baby's healthy development. That's why it's critical to seek support and help as soon as you experience depression.
Feelings can sometimes range from "feeling blue" to more severe emotions, affecting how you feel about yourself, how you interact with others, your personal relationships, your emotional attachment to your baby and your baby's healthy development. It's important for you and your partner to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Mothers and mothers-to-be with depression may experience the following:
- Unhealthy eating habits and poor weight gain
- Using tobacco and alcohol to cope, leading to potential harm to unborn baby
- Premature and low birth weight babies
- Difficulty bonding with or caring for baby
- Suicide or suicidal thoughts
If you are thinking of hurting yourself, your baby, or others, contact HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 or your health care provider right away. Don't try to deal with depression on your own. There is so much help available to you. Remember - depression is common and can be treated.
Perinatal Depression Screening
Your health care provider or public health nurse may ask you to complete the Edinburgh Perinatal Depression Screening Scale (EPDS). This set of 10 questions will help determine if you are at risk for perinatal depression. The EPDS is a standard screening process in B.C.
It may be offered when you're between 28 and 32 weeks pregnant, once your baby is between six and eight weeks old, and at any time up to one year after your baby’s birth. This screening will help your health care provider identify depression and determine treatment options. If you are experiencing depression, remember - you are not alone and help is available.
If you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of depression during your pregnancy or after your baby is born, help is available from:
- your health care provider or public health nurse
- HealthLink BC (8-1-1) or toll free for deaf/hearing impaired at 7-1-1
- Community family services or resource centre
- Pacific Postpartum Support Society (604-255-7999 or toll-free 1-855-255-7999)
- your psychiatrist
- your workplace “Employee Assistance Program”
- registered psychologist (Referral line 1-800-730-0522)
- registered Clinical Counsellor (Referral line 1-800-909-6303)
- local support groups
- the Reproductive Mental Health Program (604-875-2025 or 604-806-8589)
- the BC Mental Health Information Line (604-669-7600 or 1-800-661-2121)
- the Mood Disorders Association (604-873-0103)
Partners Can Provide Support
The feelings and emotions associated with pregnancy and infant care can be overwhelming and women trying to cope with depression need support. As a partner, you may feel helpless during this difficult time, but you can make a difference. Here's how:
- Encourage her to talk about her feelings.
- Show that you're trying to understand.
- Don't minimize her feelings.
- Help with or take over household chores and responsibilities.
- Let her know that she is loved and valued.
- Accept offers of help from friends and family.
- Let loved ones know when she doesn’t feel like having company.
- Be loving without asking for sex.
- Go with her to visit her healthcare provider and share your concerns.
- If you feel overwhelmed, speak with family members or friends.