Canada: Knowing Your Rights When Suffering From Postpartum Depression In The Workplace

Last Updated: November 8 2018
Article by Brad Moscato

You expected this would be one of the happiest times of your life, but you're feeling so miserable you can barely make it through the day. You love your newborn child dearly, but you also feel like running away. You've been told by well-meaning people that it's common to have "the baby blues," but it's difficult to believe that anyone truly understands what you're going through. You feel incredibly alone.

You are definitely not alone. One in seven women suffer from a serious mood disorder called postpartum depression ("PPD") following their pregnancy. While its symptoms vary from person to person, postpartum depression is a debilitating condition that can last many months if not properly treated.

In this blog, I'll outline the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, explore how postpartum depression can make returning to work extremely challenging if not impossible, and explain your right to claim disability benefits and/or to workplace accommodations.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

Following pregnancy, it's very common and completely normal to experience a short period of sadness or irritability commonly called 'the baby blues.' Research suggests about 60-80 per cent of women who experience significant post-birth hormonal changes, often combined with sleep deprivation, may feel weepy, moody and unsure of themselves as parents.

Usually these feelings subside within a few days to a few weeks. But if they persist for longer than two weeks, and especially beyond a month, you may be experiencing postpartum depression.

Other symptoms or warning signs of postpartum depression include:

  • negative feelings including guilt and worthlessness
  • low energy, exhaustion, little or no motivation for day to day activities
  • anxiety or panic attacks about your health or your baby's health
  • difficulty or inability to enjoy activities that should be pleasurable
  • feeling trapped in your life
  • sleep disturbances, including poor sleep or vivid nightmares
  • changes in food consumption (loss of appetite or comfort eating)
  • mental fog or memory problems
  • physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach pains, or blurry vision
  • fear of being alone with your baby
  • thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby

Recognize These Symptoms?

Postpartum depression can begin shortly after birth or emerge months later. If you or another new mother you know is experiencing some of these symptoms, it's important to seek medical help from your doctor, midwife, psychologist or another trained medical practitioner or resource centre.

A variety of treatment options can be helpful in managing PPD including: joining support groups with other new mothers to learn and share coping strategies, talking about your feelings with family and friends, asking for help with caring for the baby so you can get more rest and sleep, mild exercise when you're physically ready, and antidepressant medications if recommended and prescribed by a doctor.

Recovery can take time, however, and you may still be experiencing serious symptoms as you're about to return to work or while on the job. PPD can make regular work difficult and sometimes impossible. Fortunately, you do have options.

Work Accommodations and Disability Benefits

If you want to go back to work but you're still experiencing PPD symptoms, talk to your human resources department or manager about establishing some temporary accommodations to help. These may include additional breaks, fewer duties, or starting work late or leaving early.

If you require some additional time off work and your doctors are supportive of your plan, you may be entitled to receive short-term disability benefits and/or long-term disability benefits through your workplace insurance benefits. Short-term and long term disability benefits provide for all, or a portion, of your monthly income while you're under a doctor's care.

If you don't have a private insurance plan, you may apply for the Canadian Pension Plan disability benefits program.

Sadly, sometimes deserving applicants are denied benefits they desperately need. But a denial letter is not a final decision. If you find yourself under these circumstances please contact me to discuss your options.

My law practice is devoted to helping people who are suffering from physical or mental health conditions and who have been denied disability benefits by their insurance company. I can help you with your appeal after a denial or assist you in recovering your benefits with a legal claim if necessary.

Taking Care of Yourself

Postpartum depression, like many mental health conditions, can be a serious medical matter. With help and time to rest, you can overcome this difficult period of your life and begin to feel good about yourself and your child again.

If you need an extended leave from your job in order to focus on your health but your disability benefit application has been rejected, don't lose hope. I would be pleased to discuss your options and help you recover benefits to which you are rightfully entitled. Remember, even though your depression may be making you feel that you are alone in this struggle, there are always people ready and willing to support you and advocate on your behalf.

Originally published on

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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