What are perinatal mood disorders?

Perinatal mood disorders can occur during pregnancy or in the first year after the arrival of a new baby.

Often people use terms like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, or postpartum mood disorder instead. This can happen if you experience a miscarriage, stillbirth or loss of a child in the first year, and they can affect either parent regardless of gender identity or who was pregnant.

What are the common symptoms of perinatal mood disorders?

According to the Guelph Family Health Team, common symptoms of postpartum mood disorders can be any one or a combination of these:

  • Feeling overwhelmed, sad, inadequate, anxious, irritable or angry
  • Having feelings of panic
  • Not being able to sleep
  • Having disturbing dreams or thoughts
  • Not feeling connected to your baby
  • Having dark intrusive thoughts
  • Not wanting to be alone with your baby

If you feel overwhelmed by these symptoms or are in crisis, you should get help now; either contact your healthcare provider or go to the nearest hospital emergency room (ER). If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, please call 911 or go to the hospital right away. You can also connect with an anonymous crisis helpline in your area or text with a crisis responder.

Where can I get support?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you need support, talk to your partner, family, friends, and healthcare provider.

If you have a family doctor, they can help you diagnose and manage some mental health problems. Depending on your situation, your family doctor may refer you to a specialist.

It is important that you take care of your mental health, just like you take care of your physical health. The earlier you get help when you experience symptoms of mental illness, the better outcome you will have.

Mental illness does not discriminate. It can affect anyone, regardless of your age, culture, religion, occupation, income or education.

What can I do to stay healthy?

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health recommends a few things that can help you out in the early days at home with a new baby.

  • Sleep - Try to get enough sleep and take opportunities to rest or nap during the day.
  • Nutrition - Take your vitamins and enjoy a variety of nutritious foods, balanced meals, and snacks.
  • Exercise - Make time to be active. Daily gentle exercise, such as walking, can make a huge difference in your mood, especially if you can get outside.
  • Liquids - Hydrate throughout the day and keep a water bottle close to you during the day.
  • Baby Breaks - It’s recommended to take breaks from your baby. Find a trusted person to care for your baby while you take time for yourself. If you can’t get away, try to meet with friends for a chat. You can meet other parents for support at your local EarlyON centre.

For More Information

  • Connex Ontario Provides free and confidential health services information for people experiencing problems with alcohol and drugs, mental illness or gambling by connecting them with services in their area. Email and e-chat are also available.
  • Health 811 - Connect with a registered nurse day or night for free, secure and confidential health advice.
  • Queer Family Planning - Explore the practical, emotional, social, and legal issues surrounding queer parenthood and navigating queer family life. From the 519.
  • Parenting with a Disability Network (PDN) - A cross-disability network for parents and prospective parents with disabilities in Toronto and the GTA.
  • Postpartum blues, mood disorders and psychosis - This multilingual brochure provides pregnant women and new parents with information on baby blues and postpartum mood disorders.
  • What is child abuse? - This article has information about child abuse and explains common signs of child abuse and neglect.
  • Women’s College Hospital Mother Matters - Mother Matters is an online support group for women with mood adjustment challenges following the birth of their baby. It’s an 8-week online support group run by the Mental Health Program at Women’s College Hospital.
  • Perinatal Wellbeing Ontario Help people living with a perinatal mood disorder, connect to supports as soon as possible that are either low-cost or free.
Last updated: October 31, 2023 4006590