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Postpartum Depression

You’ve just had a new baby and this is supposed to be the happiest time of your life. Everyone expects you to be the glowing new mother who experiences joy at each giggle or coo, but what if that joy doesn’t come so easily? What if you feel scared and overwhelmed by all these new responsibilities? What if instead of feeling adoration toward your baby, you feel resentful and inadequate? Does this make you a horrible mother? A horrible person? Absolutely not—what you may be experiencing is postpartum depression. (Postpartum depression is also known as postnatal depression.)

On this page:

What is it?

Postpartum depression is a form of depression that a mother can experience within the first few weeks, months or even up to a year after having a baby. Ten to 16% of women with postpartum depression begin experiencing symptoms during pregnancy. If left untreated, this depression can last for months or even years after the baby is born. The longer an episode of depression goes untreated, the longer the recovery and the higher the risk of suicide. It’s true that it’s normal for many new mothers to feel a bit down after childbirth, but if these “baby blues” last more than two weeks and affect your ability to take care of yourself and your baby, you may have postpartum depression.


Who does it affect?

Postpartum depression is more common than you may think, affecting 8–12% of mothers. First-time mothers aren’t the only ones who experience this depression. It can also affect mothers who have already had children as well as adoptive mothers. Some studies have shown that partners can also experience postpartum depression

While postpartum depression can affect anyone, there are some factors that may put you at higher risk:

Other stresses may increase these risks such as:

Stressors such as tension in a marriage, loss of a job or a lack of support system can also play a role. Even though adoptive mothers, partners and fathers can experience postpartum depression, hormonal changes during pregnancy and after birth are thought to contribute to postpartum depression in some women.

Postpartum anxiety

While anxiety is often considered a symptom of postpartum depression, anxiety disorders that develop during or after pregnancy are a different set of illnesses altogether. Women often have both postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression at the same time. Recent research suggests that pregnancy and the early days after giving birth may be a time in a woman’s life when she is more vulnerable to developing an anxiety disorder. See the self-help workbook listed in the ‘Where do I go from here’ section of this sheet for more information on postpartum anxiety.

Source: Adapted from BC Women’s Self Care Guide


Could I have postpartum depression?

Some women may have more physical symptoms such as:

It isn’t uncommon for women experiencing postpartum depression to have scary thoughts about harming their babies even though it’s the last thing they’d want to do. While we have all heard stories of women harming their newborns, it happens very rarely. In these cases women who harm their babies usually experience psychosis. Postpartum psychosis (psychosis in the weeks and months after childbirth) affects only one out of 1000 new mothers. Even mothers experiencing postpartum psychosis very rarely harm their children.


What can I do about it?

While postpartum depression may seem like a never-ending struggle, there are things you can do to help:


How can you help yourself

How dads and other supporters can help

Source: Pacific Post Partum Support Society

Where do I go from here?

If you feel like you or someone you care about is experiencing postpartum depression talk to your doctor immediately. They can help you decide which of the above treatments, if any, is right for you. In addition to talking to your family doctor, check out the resources below for more information on postpartum depression.

Some resources available in English only are:

Reproductive Mental Health Program at BC Women’s Hospital
Call BC Women’s Hospital at 1-888-300-3088 ext. 2025 (toll-free in BC) or call 604-875-2025 (in Greater Vancouver) to find out how to see a specialist in postpartum depression or anxiety. You can also visit You must have a referral to the Reproductive Mental Health Program from your doctor. To get referral forms, doctors may call the numbers above. In addition to issues related to pregnancy, this program can also be helpful for other times in a woman’s reproductive cycle where mental health problems can happen such as the pre-menstrual period, menopause, after a miscarriage, or while experiencing infertility.

Coping with Depression in Pregnancy: A cognitive behaviour therapy-based self-management guide for women
The workbook from the Reproductive Mental Health Program helps you build self-help tools and strategies to use before and after birth. To download the workbook, visit

Pacific Post Partum Support Society
Visit for resources and information about support groups. Pacific Post Partum Support Society also offers telephone for women and families across BC. It’s available Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and on Saturday on-call from 12:00 am to 4:00 pm. For more call, 1-855-255-7999 or 604-255-7999 (in the Lower Mainland).

Mood Disorders Association of BC
Visit or call 604-873-0103 (in the Lower Mainland) or 1-855-282-7979 (in the rest of BC) for resources and information on mood disorders. You’ll also find more information on support groups around the province.

Resources available in many languages:
*For the service below, if English is not your first language, say the name of your preferred language in English to be connected to an interpreter. More than 100 languages are available.

HealthLink BC
Call 811 or visit to access free, non-emergency health information for anyone in your family, including mental health information. Through 811, you can also speak to a registered nurse about symptoms you’re worried about, or talk with a pharmacist about medication questions.

Crisis lines aren’t only for people in crisis. You can call for information on local services or if you just need someone to talk to. If you are in distress, call 310-6789 (do not add 604, 778 or 250 before the number) 24 hours a day to connect to a BC crisis line, without a wait or busy signal. The crisis lines linked in through 310-6789 have received advanced training in mental health issues and services by members of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information.

© 2013

This info sheet was prepared by CMHA BC Division on behalf of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information and HeretoHelp. Funding was provided by BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority. For more resources visit

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