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.

To the Women of Iran: A Love Letter


By Elmira Fakhr

There are thousands of people grieving their friends and family members who have been tragically killed in the fight for freedom from the oppression of the Islamic Regime in Iran. These brave souls have continued fighting a brutal government, putting their lives on the line. Despite the endless losses, they have not lost hope or the will to fight for a brighter future for themselves and their loved ones.

This is a love letter from one of our Associate Counsellors, Elmira Fakhr, who left Iran and has settled in Canada. She has chosen to make a life here and she continues to use her voice to fight for her people at home by keeping their stories alive.

Dearest Women of Iran,

It is difficult to express what I feel in simple words.

The world is watching as you fight to gain your most basic rights from the Islamic Regime in Iran. I have seen videos of your courageous protests within the last seven months. You have been tortured, raped, imprisoned, and killed.

Dear Sisters — please know, the world has heard your voice.

The strength and bravery you have shown to stand up for what you believe is admirable. You are an inspiration to so many women – and all people – around the world.

I feel your pain and sorrow deeply. Mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends have been lost in this battle and we miss them so much. I feel appreciation for our fathers, sons, brothers, and friends who have chosen to stand by our side and fight for us in this revolution.

You have inspired us all to move and make change happen. We will continue to share your stories and be your voice. We will be stronger as we stand together.

This is the revolution started by strong women of Iran – and you will not be forgotten.

Elmira is offering a limited number of reduced cost sessions to Iranian community members who are affected by this struggle.

  • A maximum of 8 online sessions at $65 each are available.
  • They are available to those who could not otherwise afford private counselling (have financial need for reduced cost sessions & do not have insurance benefits).
  • Sessions are available in English or Farsi.
  • Please email Elmira at [email protected] for more information.

How I Got Myself Into Hot Water as a Couples Counsellor

By Nasreen Gulamhusein

I remember the first time I found myself in a big ethical bind with a couple I had been seeing for a few months. 

I was sitting across from one of the partners who had just revealed a big secret to me. The problem? The other half of the couple was not in the room to hear it. So, now I knew a secret the other partner did not know. I could literally feel myself break into a sweat because this had happened 20 minutes into the session. I still had 40 minutes to go. 

I was relatively new to couples counselling at the time, and I knew the revelation of this secret had put me in an ethical bind. It was only after I sat with my supervisor and walked her through the details of the situation, that I realized how complicated the bind actually was. After I explained all of the steps I had taken, my supervisor helped me to understand the mistakes I made which could have helped me avoid this challenging situation. 

After three supervision sessions, I had a clear understanding of the steps I had to take to clean up my mistake and provide the couple with steps to move forward. I met with the couple twice more. I made apologies, they had anger and frustration (at me and each other) and we moved through it and forward. 

This couple took some amazingly brave steps despite this challenge and their relationship progressed and grew because of it. AND, it could have gone very differently for all of us had they decided differently. 

After this experience I realized the delicacy and complexity of working with a couple in crisis. What I wished is that someone had walked me through the 101’s of couples counselling — ethics, dynamics, challenges and more. 

So, that is what we are offering you! 

The Art of Couples Counselling workshop explores the emotional dynamic underlying all primary relationships. It will examine common issues and challenges the counsellor may encounter, and discusses methods of supporting the couple’s movement towards deeper emotional contact and commitment.

Please join us on Sunday, June 23rd from 10am to 3pm in East Vancouver for this workshop. 

There are 3 spots left — register today!