As many as one in five new mothers will experience some type of postpartum (following birth) mood disorder. These mothers may feel hopeless, frustrated, tearful, guilty, anxious, exhausted, too wound up to sleep, or may feel extremely high and full of energy. A very small number of new mothers (about one or two in a 1,000) will suffer from postpartum psychosis. They will have trouble distinguishing between what is real and what is not and may have repeated thoughts of harming themselves or their babies. Partners, family, and friends of the anxious or depressed woman are often unsure how to help. In many cases, the new mother's mood or lack of interest in the baby just doesn't match up with her excitement during the pregnancy or the careful preparations she made for the baby's delivery and homecoming. The good news is that families and friends can do much to help their loved one: · They can listen, support her feelings, and ask how specifically they can help. · They can encourage her to seek professional help from her doctor, midwife, or public health nurse. · They can support her by caring for the baby or doing housework. Any good support person also knows the value of being patient with, and encouraging, the person who is recovering. · Lastly, families and friends can educate themselves about postpartum mood disorders. A woman's recovery from a postpartum mood disorder may involve several strategies. She can begin by asking for help-- something that may be difficult to do if she thinks she should have all the answers or is ashamed of her feelings. She needs to be encouraged to care for herself by resting sufficiently, eating healthy foods and being active. She should accept offers of help with household chores and baby care so that she can have a break. Counselling and medication are helpful for many mothers. She may need reassurance from her health care provider that the medication recommended is safe to take while she is breastfeeding. During the month of March you may see newspaper articles, television ads, and posters on buses and in malls as part of a provincial media campaign focusing on postpartum mood disorders. The goal is to raise public awareness and reassure mothers afflicted by these disorders that they are not alone, they are not at fault, and help is available. In fact, early treatment and support increases the rate and speed of recovery. Halton Region's Health Department is here to help. New mothers in hospital can request a follow-up telephone call from the public health nurse once they get home. As well, every family can have an in-home visit from a public health nurse who will answer their questions, check to see how the baby is feeding and growing, and provide helpful information about community programs, safety, and mother's and baby health. Public health nurses are available by telephone, five days a week between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to respond to new parents' questions and concerns. In addition, extra support is available through the Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program for parents-to-be and families with children up to the age of three years. For more information about postpartum mood disorder or caring for your baby, contact Halton Region at 905-825-6000, toll free 1-866-4HALTON (1-866-442-5866), TTY 905827-9833, or visit our website at www.halton.ca Health Notes is prepared by staff of Halton Region's Health Department.