Depression during pregnancy and the postpartum period—Patient FAQ

PDF Version


As part of usual care, providers should remain attentive to patient mental health during visits.

However, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommends against  universal screening for depression using standardized tools, such as questionnaires with a cut off, with all pregnant and postpartum people (up to 1 year after birth)

Key Points:

  • Depression during pregnancy or the postpartum period up to 1 year after childbirth is a serious health concern, and there are effective treatments.
  • Your healthcare provider should ask about your mental health and wellbeing as part of usual care and may ask about symptoms that may be related to depression.
  • If you are diagnosed with depression, your healthcare provider can discuss support and treatment options that may help.

1. What is pregnancy or postpartum depression?

  • It is depressed mood during pregnancy or in the period following childbirth, which can have serious impacts on parent and infant.
  • Postpartum depression symptoms appear within two weeks of giving birth and can include:
    • Thoughts of suicide
    • Not wanting to care for your baby
    • Inability to do any of your daily tasks
    • Not wanting to be around your partner
  • These symptoms may not go away on their own and will need treatment.

2. How common is postpartum depression?

  • Depression among pregnant or postpartum people is only slightly higher than among people who are not.
  • However, depression during this period could affect parent well-being, infant development, and parent-infant bonding

3. What is usual care during the postpartum period?

  • Usual care should include conversations about mental health history, current symptoms (if any) and overall well-being.
  • During this period, your health care provider will check to see if you may have depression.

4. What is the treatment for postpartum depression?

  • Medication (antidepressants) and/or talk therapy is often used to treat postpartum depression.
  • Regular exercise can also be helpful.

5. What is the difference between “baby blues” and postpartum depression?

  • It is normal and common to have what is often called “baby blues” a couple days after giving birth.
  • These are feelings of sadness, anxiety, and/ or being upset with their baby or partner. Other symptoms include unexpected crying, trouble sleeping, or loss of appetite.
  • It is mostly brought on by a large change in hormones after birth, loss of sleep, and increased stress.
  • These symptoms often get better within 1 – 2 weeks without any treatment.
  • Postpartum depression shares a lot of symptoms with “baby blues”, but it can be much more intense and requires treatment.

6. What is screening?

  • Screening is a test used to see if you might be at a higher risk of developing a certain health problem.
  • It is typically a set of questions with scores based on your answers.
  • If your scores are high, you will need more tests to confirm a diagnosis and determine treatment of depression
  • Screening pregnant and postpartum people for depression has not been shown to improve mental health more than usual discussions patients have with their clinicians about their well-being and mental health.

7. If I’m not screened, how will I know if I have postpartum depression?

  • Clinicians should ask their patients about their mental health and well-being as part of usual care.
  • It is very important to talk to your health care provider about any mental health concerns you have before, during, and after you give birth.
  • Clinicians would then use their clinical judgment to decide if more assessment is needed, rather than rely on a screening score.

Please contact your healthcare provider if you are feeling unwell or have any questions. Do not wait for your next scheduled appointment.

Below are some helpful resources: