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Patricia Tomasi Co-Executive Director CPMHC

Patricia Tomasi

Co-Executive Director, CPMHC

Jaime Charlebois

Co-Executive Director, CPMHC

Perinatal mental illness impacts thousands of Canadians each year, and understanding the impact — and how to tackle it — is essential.

Isn’t it amazing how far we’ve come in Canada talking about mental health? At the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative (CPMHC), we’re also taking action by advocating for improved perinatal mental health services.

But wait, what is perinatal mental health? Aren’t we talking about postpartum depression? Yes, we are, and more … You see, for all the great discussion about mental health, there’s still so much misinformation and stigma. The most crucial time in a person’s life when it comes to ensuring their future mental health is the perinatal period surrounding conception to postpartum — that is to say, before you’re even born.

We believe that in order to stop the cycle of mental illness, we need to start where it matters most — before birth.

Sarah Cunningham
Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Desk

Here are five things to know about perinatal mental illness:

Listicle 1

It’s more than postpartum depression

Though the term postpartum depression is probably what you’re most familiar with, it’s actually one of several perinatal mental health disorders that can befall a person in pregnancy and postpartum, and is the most common complication of childbirth. There’s also prenatal and postpartum anxiety (the most common), post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, and, in rare cases (about one or two in 1,000), psychosis.

Listicle 2

It doesn’t discriminate

Whether you’re well off or struggling to make ends meet, whether you’re big, small, medium, or tall, and whether you live in Halifax or Kugluktuk, perinatal mental illness can happen to anyone. Having said that, you’re more at risk of developing a perinatal mental illness if you’re struggling financially, have a history of mental health disorders, live in a rural community, are part of the LGBTQ2+ community, are living with a disability, or are Black, Indigenous, or a person of colour.

Listicle 3

It’s not just about moms

Did you know that birthing people, partners, adoptive parents, and fathers can also develop a perinatal mental illness? It’s not just moms or moms-to-be who are susceptible. Having a baby is stressful for the whole family and studies have shown hormonal fluctuations in dads, too.

Listicle 4

Babies can be affected

perinatal mental illness can have a lasting impact on infants and is considered the first adverse childhood experience affecting the physical and mental health of the child and family for generations. Adversity in childhood is known to have impacts on behaviour and educational achievement throughout the lifespan.

That’s what we mean when we say that the best way to stop the cycle of mental illness is to catch it before it begins — which means making sure that moms, dads, partners, and birthing people are properly screened, diagnosed, and treated before and after a baby is born.

Listicle 5

We’re fighting for you

The CPMHC is calling on the government to improve perinatal mental health services, and we’re thrilled to report that it has promised to do so. We look forward to the day when Canada has universal perinatal mental health screening and timely access to services in all areas of the country. Until then, keep talking and keep sharing your stories. The mental health of our future generations depends on it.

Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Desk
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