Postpartum depression, which is different from the "baby blues," will afflict thousands of new mothers every year in Manitoba. And, notes the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba, about 10 per cent of new mothers -- about 1,000 each year here – will experience post-partum depression, which puts them at elevated risk to develop the psychosis that is truly dangerous to themselves and their babies.
The MDAM says less than half of the moms inflicted with postpartum depression will seek help. The reasons are understandable -- a mother, feeling incapable of keeping her newborn happy, healthy and safe, likely is already wracked by guilt and fearing someone will find out. More resources are needed to reach those at risk.
After the death of Lisa Gibson and her two children last summer, MDAM set up a phone line for mothers and family needing to distinguish the baby blues, short periods of tearfulness after birth, from the more profound depression that triggers insomnia and anxiety, or a psychosis, where obsessive thoughts of death and harm take hold.
New mothers need more than a pamphlet in their hand. Prenatal education through community classes, family physicians and public health centres is critical to reaching expectant and new mothers. Public-health nurses are adept at making early contact with new moms, assessing their supports and coping strategies at a time of physical, hormonal and domestic upheaval. All health authorities should be reviewing their strategies, and programs, to this end.