Fifteen to 20 percent of Canadian women experience postpartum depression (PPD), though many don’t know what is wrong until someone puts a name to it. It can happen to anyone
Nancy Pristas seems an unlikely candidate for depression: She had wonderful pregnancies, natural childbirth and a supportive husband. It is difficult for someone who has never gone through a depression to understand how it feels.
Like almost all women who experience PPD, Pristas eventually recovered fully and is leading a busy and happy life. And she shares what she has learned by coordinating the Post Partum Support Group in London, Ont.
PPD has many faces: Some women have mild depression, while others are completely overwhelmed. The symptoms may begin within weeks of the baby’s birth, or they may not appear until a year later.
What is PPD like?
PPD is different from “the baby blues,” which many women experience soon after giving birth. These tend to pass within a day or two. But if unprovoked crying, emotional outbursts and irritability last beyond two weeks, says public health nurse Madeline Ryan, it could be the beginning of PPD, and a woman should seek help.
For Molly, “everything went flat.” She was unable to motivate herself to do anything. Everyone told Molly that this was supposed to be a happy time, but her life seemed to be layer upon layer of sadness and isolation.
Pristas says women with PPD are often upset by feelings that they don’t want or love their baby. Pristas reassures women that love will grow with time. And public health nurse Madeline Ryan emphasizes that despite their feelings of inadequacy, “depressed moms give good care to their babies.”
Symptoms of PPD
• major, prolonged unhappiness
• feeling of complete exhaustion
• anxiety — a pounding heart, tight chest or difficulty breathing
• lack of interest in the baby
• sleeping or eating disturbances
• inability to concentrate
• feelings of helplessness, inadequacy, loneliness or guilt
• thoughts of suicide