After the birth of a child, new mothers and fathers sometimes go through a depressive episode. Women and men often experience depression differently.
Depression in women
About two in ten women experience depression after childbirth.
Women suffering from depression usually experience sadness or a general loss of interest and overall pleasure in daily activities. They can also show some of the following signs:
- A decrease or increase in appetite
- A sleep disorder (sleeping too much, difficulty sleeping, or inability to sleep, even when baby is sleeping)
- Agitation or psychomotor impairment (e.g., slowed speech)
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Excessive anxiety and irritability
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt (e.g., the impression of not being a good parent or not being able to establish an emotional bond with the baby)
- Difficulty developing a sense of attachment, feelings of ambivalence or disinterest toward the child
- Difficulty concentrating or indecisiveness
- Thoughts of death or suicidal ideas
Some of these signs can be confused with normal changes that occur after the birth of a child (e.g., fatigue from lack of sleep due to caring for the baby).
Unlike the baby blues, which is temporary, the changes in behaviour and mood associated with depression are present almost every day for at least two weeks.
Depression in men
As many as one in ten men may suffer from depression after their baby is born.
Men experience the same feelings as women but may express their distress differently.
For example, they may be more aggressive or irritable, have mood swings, or feel physical discomfort such as stomach aches, headaches, or difficulty breathing. Some men may also show hyperactive behaviour (escaping into work or sports for long hours) or excess consumption of alcohol or drugs.
Treatments exist for depression. If you have noticed these changes in yourself or your partner, consult a health professional. You can also contact your local CLSC or a psychologist, or call Info-Social at 8-1-1.