Emotional Health · Parenting

Do I have postpartum depression or anxiety? What’s the difference?

A mother is holding her baby who is sleeping on her chest.

Looking back, you were so excited on the day of your baby’s birth…she was so small and perfect, just what you expected.  The breastfeeding took some time to master, but it got better.  Now 3 months later you are constantly worried:  “Am I doing this right?  Is she getting enough milk?  Is there something wrong with her?  Will my partner come home from his trip to help me?”

You also can’t rest or settle down, it’s always time to do something like laundry, cleaning your house, entertaining baby, checking on baby, and making meals.  Getting sleep has become almost impossible, even though you are exhausted, and your mind is racing.  Sometimes you are even afraid to be alone with your baby because of scary thoughts or worries.  Is this supposed to be happening?  How long can I go on like this?

Postpartum Depression (PPD) vs. Anxiety

PPD and Anxiety are not a “One Size Fits All” illness, they have very different symptoms and can occur together or sometimes happen on their own.

Parents who have PPD may show feelings of:

  • sadness
  • emptiness
  • tearfulness
  • irritability
  • guilt
  • loneliness
  • feeling resentful towards baby, partner, and family/friends.

The key difference for women with anxiety is that instead of the sadness, crying, guilt, and loneliness that’s experienced with depression, they tend to experience some or all of the following:

  • constant worry
  • scary or upsetting thoughts
  • racing heart
  • difficulty concentrating
  • shortness of breath
  • sleep disturbances
  • difficulty ‘slowing down’ the mind
  • feelings of exhaustion

PPD and Anxiety can occur prenatally as well as after baby arrives, so stay in tune with your emotions throughout your pregnancy.  Take care of yourself first, so you can take care of your baby more easily.

Ask for help early if you are feeling any symptoms of depression or anxiety.

The idea of “waiting it out…it will get better on its own” usually doesn’t help.

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety are both temporary and treatable with support and professional help.  Contact a Toronto Public Health Nurse at (416) 338-7600, or your health care provider.   You are not alone.


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