Carla O’Reilly and Elita Paterson are two Canadian women who are sharing their experiences with Post-Partum Depression (PPD) and Post-Partum Psychosis (PPP) across the country.

Both have had experiences with PPD or PPP and visited MNCFN in November to share their stories and to encourage the community to create a community Maternal Health Committee to focus on mothers and issues such as PPD/PPP.

Symptoms of PPD include: hopelessness, tearfulness, feelings of inadequacy, guilt, anxiety, anger, obsessive compulsive thoughts of harming yourself or the baby, irritability and fatigue. Physical symptoms include headaches, numbness, chest pain and hyperventilation.

Symptoms of Post-Partum Psychosis (PPP) include: seeing or hearing things that aren’t there; having strange experiences/sensations; speech and thoughts disorganized; describing things that are not based in reality.

PPD and PPP usually occur within the first two to three weeks after delivery or later post-partum.

Risk factors for developing PPD or PPP include: history of mental illness; family history of mental illness; having an unplanned pregnancy; level of social support available; experiencing traumatic life events while pregnant; having a traumatic labour and delivery; and level of coping skills related to stress.

The presenters stressed the importance of mothers getting help while caring for a baby to help prevent PPD/PPP by using a “post-partum prevention plan.”  Some ways you can help a new mother include helping with: cooking, cleaning, laundry, care of other children and the newborn, help getting to appointments, breastfeeding guidance, organizing coffee dates to get out of the house, and having someone to talk to in a PPD/PPP support group.

Another suggestion from the presentation was to adopt a support person and use a code system to rate feelings and coping skills. The support person should be a phone call away and be able to manage low-level counselling and be able to determine if you are managing well on your own and be educated on the symptoms of PPD/PPP.

“Every day that you have is a gift,” said O’Reilly. “Every breath that you take is a gift.”