Header Side Menu Content Footer
Government of Manitoba
Manitoba Parent Zone
Manitoba Parent Zone Logo - It's natural to have Questions about Parenting

Search ManitobaParentZone.ca

Parenting Resources

Parenting is one of life's most rewarding experiences but it can be extremely challenging as well. Fortunately, you don't have to tackle parenting all alone – there are many great resources available.

Post-Partum Mental Health

If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, or thoughts of harming others, get help right away by calling:
Klinic 24-hour Crisis Line: (204) 786-8686 or toll free 1-888-322-3019.
Manitoba Suicide Line: toll free 1-877-435-7170 (1-877-help170) (24 hours), website: http://www.reasontolive.ca/
Regional Health Authority crisis numbers: http://www.gov.mb.ca/healthyliving/mh/crisis.html
Winnipeg: Crisis Response Centre at 817 Bannatyne Avenue. Open 24 hours. Rural: You can go to your local hospital.

Although there are many moments of joy in pregnancy and birth, the post-partum period can be difficult for many mothers and families. Difficulties can range from the common experience of ‘baby blues’, to post-partum depression or anxiety, to the more severe post-partum psychosis. It is important for mothers and their families to recognize that some changes in mood after having a baby are normal, and to be aware of how to connect with community supports when necessary, knowing that it is okay to do so.

What are postpartum mood disorders?

The first step is recognizing what post-partum mood disorders are and what they are not.

Baby blues is a normal and common phenomenon that happens to about 75% to 80% of women after giving birth, usually starting in the first week after delivery. Women may feel tearful, irritable, anxious, or overwhelmed by the responsibility that comes with caring for a new baby. Baby blues is thought to be connected with the hormonal changes that occur after birth. The baby blues are mild and time-limited – they go away on their own without treatment [i].

Post-partum depression (PPD) is also relatively common, experienced by 10% to 20% of women after giving birth [ii]. It usually occurs within the first month after birth, but it can appear anytime within the first year after birth. It lasts at least two weeks, and if left untreated it can last from three to 14 months[iii]. Symptoms of post-partum depression include: feeling depressed or sad; losing interest in things that would normally be enjoyed, including the baby; changes in weight or appetite; changes in sleep, including having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep or sleeping too much; excessive fatigue or loss of energy; physical feelings of being slowed down, or excessive restlessness, jumpiness or edginess; feelings of worthlessness and excessive guilt; having a hard time concentrating and thinking clearly; and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, including thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby.

The exact cause of PPD is not known, though it is believed that physical, hormonal, social, psychological, and emotional factors all play a role [iv]. PPD is treatable with counselling, supports, or medication; recovery is possible. PPD doesn’t mean you are a bad mom and it is important to remember it is not your fault. If you are concerned that you might be experiencing PPD, speak with your public health nurse, doctor or midwife as soon as you can.

Post-partum anxiety is experienced by between 4% and 15% of mothers after having a baby. It occurs when a new mom feels like she is worrying a lot—about the baby’s health or growth, her ability to care for the baby, or whether she can safely take the new baby out. She might experience racing thoughts, have a hard time sleeping (even if the baby is sleeping well), or feel edgy, irritable, restless, or keyed-up all the time. She may also feel panic, with shortness of breath, chest pain, or dizziness.

Post-partum obsessive compulsive disorder, is experienced as repetitive, unwanted, sometimes scary or upsetting thoughts or images (obsessions) along with behaviours (compulsions) to reduce anxiety the thoughts or images create, such as excessive cleaning or hand-washing.

Post-partum psychosis (PPP) is talked a lot about in the media and many mothers with milder PPD may worry they will develop it. However, it is quite rare. PPP occurs in about one to two out of every 1,000 births, or 0.1% to 0.2%. The onset of PPP is rapid, and usually occurs within the first four weeks after birth.

Symptoms of PPP include feeling detached from reality; seeing or hearing things that others don’t (called hallucinations); firmly believing in things that are not true (called delusions), such as feeling super-capable, invincible or on a sudden mission, or suddenly feeling unique or special; feeling very confused; behaving or talking in a very disorganized way; having extreme changes in mood or thinking patterns (difficulty concentrating, memory loss, disconnected thoughts); and having thoughts of death or suicide, including harming the baby or self[v]. Most mothers who have PPP do not harm themselves or anyone else[vi]. The new mother may notice these things herself or others may notice that her behaviour is unusual for her.

Risk factors for post-partum psychosis include having a personal or family history of bipolar disorder[vii].

Post-partum psychosis is a temporary, treatable, and very serious illness. If you think you or someone you love may have post-partum psychosis, don’t wait to get help – it is a medical emergency. Call a crisis number immediately. (Please see the list of helpful phone numbers in the text box at the top of this article.)

Barriers to seeking help

If you are currently experiencing post-partum mood disorders and are considering getting help, you might be feeling a wide range of emotions. Some of the reasons that women are reluctant to seek help for post-partum mood disorders include:

Shame and guilt. We get very strong messages from society that motherhood is something that must be done perfectly. There are many expectations that motherhood will be a joyous time. You might be reluctant to reach out for help because you feel it means you are a bad mom, don’t love your children, or are incapable or ungrateful. For women who feel pressure towards perfectionism, feeling not good enough can be very scary and can create shame. Also, PPD can affect the mother-baby relationship. Mothers may feel guilty about this since they are not feeling the same as other new mothers.

Women who have adopted a baby may have particularly complex feelings of guilt or shame for feeling the frustration and exhaustion that comes with being a new parent.

It is normal to feel many things when you have a new baby, and having these feelings does not mean that you are a bad mom. Remember that no one is perfect.

Misinformation. Many people wrongly assume that mental illness or post-partum mood disorders only happen in families of certain backgrounds.

In the five-year period (2001-2006), 1 in 4 Manitobans experienced a mental health problem or illness [viii]. Anyone can be affected, regardless of cultural or socio-economic background, or family status.

Judgements and stigma. In the past, mental health concerns were viewed as personal weaknesses. Stigmatizing attitudes and discrimination against people with mental health problems and illnesses still exists. This means that you might not want to share that you are experiencing mood disorders for fear of being judged by others. Some women may worry that if they admit to feeling down, they may be judged unfit to care for their children and that somehow their children may then be taken away from them.

We now know that mental health disorders are illnesses, just like illnesses that affect any other parts of our bodies. Remember that it is not your fault

Misconceptions about how to get better. Sometimes, people might suggest that one should just ‘tough it out’ or that someone can change depression by sheer will alone. While wanting to get better is helpful, it is not always enough. Some women may fear that medication might be ‘pushed’ on them—this fear may keep them from seeking appropriate professional help.

There are many paths to recovery, and each path is unique like the person travelling it. A treatment path may include counselling, medication, or other supports. It is important to know that you have the right to talk to a health care professional to help you decide on the most appropriate treatment for you.

Feeling isolated or unsupported. If a mother feels she has nowhere to turn or isn’t supported by family, friends or professionals, she may not turn to them when she is feeling most vulnerable. Know that your public health nurse is trained to help you with these feelings and can help and support you. You are not alone.

It is hard to ask for help. Depression, anxiety and other mood disorders make day-to-day living a challenge. Asking for help or going to appointments might feel even more overwhelming, especially in the post-partum period.

It is okay to feel unsure or scared about asking for help. Keep all appointments and ask a friend or family member to go with you.

Promoting positive mental health

Looking after your mental health during pregnancy and the post-partum period can help to prevent the development of and aid in recovery from post-partum mood disorders. These are tips that you can try that may help you feel better, and tips for families on providing support to a loved one who is experiencing a post-partum mood disorder.

Tips to help you take care of yourself [ix]:

Tips for friends and family members of a loved one:

Community Support

Many mothers also find that support groups are especially helpful. It can be incredibly comforting to know that there are other women who are having the same experience and who can relate to how you are feeling. The links below will provide more information for you and your loved ones.

Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba

Post-partum depression Canadian Mental Health Association

Post-partum depression Women’s Health Clinic: Coping with Change: A New Mother’s Guide

Healthy Baby Community Support Programs


Beyond these self-care tips and community supports, some mothers can begin to feel better with different types of treatments. Treatment for post-partum mood disorders may include counselling, medication, or a combination of both. Counselling can provide you with support as you are learning to cope with the stresses of having a new baby. Not all women need medication to get better. Women who are breastfeeding should be aware that some medications (including herbal or natural medications) will enter the breast milk. Research shows that some medications can be taken safely. It is important to talk to your health care provider whether medication is right for you.

Post-partum psychosis calls for immediate intervention which could include hospitalization. This can allow intensive treatment to begin, including medications or other therapies.

Help is available

If you or someone you love is experiencing post-partum mood disorders, don’t wait to get help—it is available. Contact your public health nurse, doctor or midwife, or call the mental health professionals in your area for information:

Public Health Offices: http://www.gov.mb.ca/health/publichealth/offices.html

Mental Health Services Contacts by region: http://www.gov.mb.ca/health/mh/crisis.html

Manitoba Farm and Rural Stress Line: toll-free at 1-866-367-3276, or email help@ruralsupport.ca

i) RNAO, 2005. WRHA website; Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba factsheet; Canadian Mental Health Association website; Centre for Addictions and Mental Health Website.

ii) Postpartum Support International cites 15%. 2010. “Depression During Pregnancy and Postpartum”. Website: http://www.postpartum.net/Get-the-Facts/Depression-During-Pregnancy-Postpartum.aspx. Canadian Mental Health Association cites 3-20%. “Postpartum Depression” Website: http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/postpartum-depression/. Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba cites 10% (US figure). Information Sheets. “Postpartum Depression.” Website: http://www.mooddisordersmanitoba.ca/wp-content/uploads/115.pdf. Winnipeg Regional Health Authority cites 1 in 8 (12.5%)

iii) Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba

iv) Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. “Postpartum Depression” Information Page. Website: http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/Postpartum-depression/Pages/default.aspx.

v) Centre for Addiction and Mental Health “Psychosis” Information Page. Website: http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/psychosis/Pages/Psychosis.aspx.

vi) Postpartum Support International. 2010. “Postpartum Psychosis.” Website: http://www.postpartum.net/Get-the-Facts/Postpartum-Psychosis.aspx

vii) Postpartum Support International. 2010. “Postpartum Psychosis.” Website: http://www.postpartum.net/Get-the-Facts/Postpartum-Psychosis.aspx Martens PJ, Fransoo R, McKeen N, The Need to Know Team, Burland E, Jebamani L, Burchill C, De Coster C, Ekuma O, Prior H, Chateau D, Robinson R, Metge C. [Manitoba Centre for Health Policy]. 2004. “Patterns of Regional Mental Illness Disorder Diagnoses and Service Use in Manitoba: A Population-Based Study.” Department of Community Health Sciences. Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba.

ix) WRHA “Information about postpartum depression and other mental health related issues” and CMHA Canadian Mental Health Association. “Postpartum Depression” Website: http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/postpartum-depression/.

x) Adapted from: http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/postnataldepression.aspx.

Positive Parenting Program (Triple P)

Manitoba's Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) website has lots of good information for parents. You can also call the Triple P help line with questions at 204-945-4777 in Winnipeg or toll free 1-877-945-4777, or click on the links below.

Healthy Baby

Manitoba's prenatal benefit and community support program, Healthy Baby, provides supports to mothers and their babies right in their community!

General Resources

Community Programs

Parenting is one of life's most rewarding experiences but it can be extremely challenging as well. Fortunately, you don't have to tackle parenting all alone ? there are many great resources available. Maybe a drop-in centre works best for you and your family, or perhaps you feel more comfortable at a regularly scheduled group or class.

Depending on where you live in Manitoba, you may be able to access a range of programs at the community level. To find out more about the community-based services and programs for families in your area, try the CONTACT Community Information Online Search Tool and the other links below. If there are other programs or services you feel we should add to our Community Programs list, please let us know by emailing us at Contact Us with the details (type of program, location, phone number, hours of operation and cost).

Separation & Divorce

Separation and divorce can be a time of confusion, sorrow and pain for all members of the family. Find resources here.

Get Started
Need More Info?
Emergency Contacts