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Postpartum Depression. A Mothers’ Mental Health Toolkit Project Learning Video with Dr. Joanne MacDonald Reproductive Mental Health Service IWK Health Centre Halifax NS. Postpartum Depression. Postpartum Depression.

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postpartum depression

Postpartum Depression

A Mothers’ Mental Health Toolkit Project Learning Video

with Dr. Joanne MacDonald

Reproductive Mental Health Service

IWK Health Centre

Halifax NS

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Postpartum Depression

Depression that begins for the mother within the first 12 months after a baby is born is called Postpartum Depression.

This comes from the word partuition which is a medical term for the process of delivering the baby.

1 in 10 women will experience Postpartum Depression.

This mental health problem is then one of the most common complications of childbirth.

60 + % will have no previous history of diagnosed illness.

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Postpartum Depression

Family and friends may not expect PPD

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Postpartum Depression


Inability to rest when baby rests

Mind working very slowly or very quickly

Low motivation

Poor concentration, planning

Lack of ability to enjoy usual activities or people

Low self-concept, unusual hopelessness

Overwhelmed easily compared to past coping

Unexplainable changes in sleep or appetite

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Postpartum Depression

True or False?

  • PPD is more common with teen mothers
  • Family history of PPD increases risk
  • The depression will lift in time
  • It is better to cope without treatment for the sake of the baby/child
  • There is little family or friends can do
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Postpartum Depression
  • Teen mothers have the same rate of Major Depression as older mothers in formal studies. But they may have more difficulties with adjustment if supports are few, and increased social disadvantage because of deficits in education or income.
  • Family history of PPD with mother, aunts, sisters or cousins, does increase a woman’s risk.
  • Up to 20 % of untreated postpartum depression becomes chronic depression that affects function and quality of life.
  • Untreated depression in a mother is strongly associated with delays in development and attachment for the baby.
  • High levels of social support seems to protect from PPD and improve recovery.
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Postpartum Depression

Social Determinants of Health influence availability and accessibility of health care

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Postpartum Depression

Fast Fact:

Postpartum depression can be a mixture of mood disturbance – with sad, blue or low mood, unusual irritability and tension and/or increased anxiety in the body and in thinking. It can be dismissed as adjustment and not recognized as a treatable illness.

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Postpartum Depression

Why does depression risk increase after a baby is born?

Sleep deprivation is a general trigger for mood regulation problems

Major changes in role, relationships and expectations contribute to depression risk in any person

Usual coping strategies may not be as easy to do, such as daily exercise routine

Some women have brain chemistry that is triggered by the hormones that change in pregnancy and after birth. This is the factor that is shared by family members at risk.

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Postpartum Depression

Strategies to Prevent PPD include:

Reducing stresses where possible

Help with tasks other than baby care

Rest periods from baby care

Building in extra sleep whenever possible

Active treatment of depression in pregnancy

Cognitive-behavioral & emotional regulation strategies and therapies

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Postpartum Depression

Treatment Options:

Mindfulness & Relaxation Techniques

Physical Exercise including Practices that increase relaxation and focus

Interpersonal and Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy

Antidepressant Medications ( safety for each woman and her baby if breastfeeding needs to be evaluated; many medications are safely and effectively used)

Antianxiety Medications

Sleep Medications

Nutritional Enhancement, including Supplements such as Omega-3-Fatty Acids

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Postpartum Depression

Who can help?

Friends & Family

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Postpartum Depression

Who can help?


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Postpartum Depression

Who can help?

Primary care doctor or nurse

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Postpartum Depression

Who can help?

Mothers supporting other mothers

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Postpartum Depression

Who can help?

Community Support Workers

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Postpartum Depression

Who can help?

Mental Health Professionals

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Postpartum Depression

What can help?


Self-directed recovery strategies

Peer support and connection

Key Resources: mentalhealth.htm

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Postpartum Depression

What’s the outcome?

Full pre-baby recovery is typical with treatment

Full physical and emotional recovery can come slowly though over weeks to months

Self-care strategies and stress reduction may need to become lifelong habits

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Postpartum Depression

What is a woman’s risk for depression after her next pregnancy if she has had one episode of Postpartum Depression?

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Postpartum Depression

Risk first time is 10%

One episode risk increases to 20 %

But chance of remaining well is still 80%

Self-care, stress reduction, quick assessment and treatment of new depression reduces risk and effects of illness

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Postpartum Depression

Take Home Point:

Community service providers can be critical as sources of support, recognition of a woman’s struggle, knowledge of local resources and leadership in reducing stigma in mental health care for mothers.

Postpartum Depression can be a serious but treatable illness with a good outcome with care.