British Columbia Reproductive Mental Health Program

Reproductive Mental Health

bullet.gif (1642 bytes) Emotional Disorders in the Postpartum Period

Recent research has shown that women are susceptible to psychiatric disorders during pregnancy. Most commonly found are major depression, panic disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders and psychosis.


Women's experience of mothering includes a major transition in their lives. Social, economic, emotional and physical changes affect their roles in society. Some women have difficulties coping during the postpartum period and find support from friends, health nurses, neighborhood groups and family doctors. However, other women may frequently encounter emotional difficulties.

Our program provides services for women who experience these difficulties to find successful and supportive solutions.

  • The most vulnerable time for a woman to develop onset of mood disorders is during the postpartum period.
  • Approximately 12- 16 % of women experience depression during the postpartum period.
  • Adolescent mothers will experience depression more frequently.
  • A diagnosis of depression may be missed in the postpartum period because of the demands of caring for a new infant. Changes in sleep, appetite, fatigue and energy are common in both the normal postpartum period and postpartum depression.
  • Approximately 30% of women with a history of depression prior to conceiving will develop postpartum depression.
  • Approximately 50% of women with a history of postpartum depression will develop postpartum depression in a subsequent pregnancy.
  • Emotional disorders during the postpartum period can occur;
  • during labour and delivery
  • within a few days or weeks of delivery
  • most frequently starting within 6 weeks of delivery or
  • at any time up to one year following the birth.
  • Due to increased awareness about mood disorders in the postpartum period some more vulnerable women are being diagnosed and treated during pregnancy.

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