Understanding and Navigating Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Therapeutic CounsellingHaving a baby is often talked about as one of the most joyful moments in a person’s life. However, it’s important to acknowledge that the postpartum period can also be incredibly emotionally and physically challenging . It’s common for new parents to experience a wide range of emotions, including stress, exhaustion and anxiety. In some cases, this can escalate into postpartum depression and anxiety.

At Breathing Space Counselling, we understand that postpartum depression and anxiety can have a significant impact on the birthing parent and their family. That’s why we offer counselling services specifically tailored to help new parents navigate these challenges.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at postpartum depression and anxiety, and provide some tips for coping and seeking support.

Understanding Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Postpartum depression and anxiety (PPD/PPA) are both mental health conditions that can affect birthing parents. PPD/PPA affects about 10 – 16% of birthing parents in the first year of parenthood. They are different from the “baby blues,” which are a common experience that typically subside within a few days or weeks after giving birth. Postpartum depression and anxiety, on the other hand, can last for several months or longer.

Postpartum depression can include experiencing feelings of: sadness, hopelessness, overwhelm, guilt, anger or rage, worthlessness, loss of interest in life, difficulty with making decisions, thoughts of being a terrible parent, or frightening thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. It can also manifest as physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, changes in appetite and/or sleep patterns.

PPD/PPA can begin during pregnancy or after baby is born, and can persist for weeks or even months after giving birth.
Postpartum anxiety, on the other hand, is marked by excessive worry and fear that can interfere with daily life. Symptoms may include: a racing heart, sweating, trembling, excessive worry & self-doubt, intrusive thoughts or images of harm to the baby, and difficulty sleeping. Postpartum anxiety can make it difficult to take care of oneself and the new baby.

Risk Factors

Some birthing parents are at higher risk of experiencing PPD/PPA. This includes people who:

  • Have experienced depression or anxiety in the past, or have a family history of depression or anxiety.
  • Had a traumatic pregnancy or birthing experience.
  • Went through a stressful or traumatic experience before or during pregnancy, such as loss of a loved one, infertility, miscarriage, etc.
  • Have a history of domestic violence, sexual or other abuse.
  • Had a traumatic childhood, such as loss of a parent, an absent parent, or a difficult relationship with a parent.
  • Are isolated and have too little support from friends, family and community.

Navigating Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

If you are experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Here are some tips for navigating this experience:

  • Reach out for support: Talk to your partner, family members, or friends about how you’re feeling. Consider joining a support group for new parents or seek out professional counselling.
  • Practice self-care: Be gentle and kind to yourself about the fact that you’re a new parent and things are going to feel hard. Do small things for yourself that are meaningful to you and manageable, such as going for a short walk or eating a nourishing meal.
  • Prioritize sleep and exercise: Getting enough sleep and exercise can help improve your mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Set realistic expectations: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be the “perfect” parent — perfect doesn’t exist. It’s okay to not know, take things one day at a time and ask for help along the way.

The Pacific Postpartum Support Society is a wonderful free resource for parents experiencing PPD/PPA. They offer phone and text message support, as well as support groups for birthing parents and their partners. You can learn more about them here.

Our Counsellors at Breathing Space Counselling can also provide therapeutic counselling for postpartum depression and anxiety in our Port Moody offices or online/by telephone. We can help you to develop strategies to navigate your entry into parenthood, and work through difficult emotions in a safe and supportive environment.

Take the First Step

If you’re struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety, please know, you’re not alone. Seeking help is a sign of strength and at Breathing Space Counselling we’re here to support you.

Contact us today to schedule a free phone consultation and take that first step towards your healing and recovery.