Ask A Counsellor: What Do I Need To Know About Postpartum Depression & Anxiety?
If you are a mom struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety (PPD/PPA), you are not alone. We know how isolating it can feel to struggle, and we want you to know that you can feel better, and there is help out there.
We are really passionate about maternal mental health, and want to open up the conversation on it (see more about this here). The more we share our stories and experiences, the better support we can give other moms who are struggling.
In order to help you access the best information possible on PPD/PPA we have been interviewing some experts in the field. Today we talk to Mental Health Counsellor Kerri Gaskin. Kerri specializes in postpartum mental health, and has worked with many women and families that have had mental health issues during their pregnancy and postpartum period. As a mom and survivor of PPD/PPA, Kerri truly understands the needs of moms living with the symptoms of PPD.
In our interview, we asked Kerri questions that we have had from our readers. We are so excited to share these answers with you, and answer some very important questions about PPA and PPD.
Without further ado: Here is the conversation that I had with Kerri about postpartum mental health!
In your experience what are common warning signs of either PPD/PPA?
As a new mom (whether for the first time or in subsequent births), feelings of overwhelm, fatigue, and a little nervousness are pretty common. However, when those feelings persist for more than a few days after baby arrives, it is a good idea to seek professional help. Many doctors will use a screening tool called the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale as the first measure for PPD.
Common early warning signs that I’ve seen in my practice:
- Intense irritability or anger
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Persistent feelings of hopelessness
- Feeling that you are not good enough or capable enough to be a good mother
- Crying inconsolably and for no discernible reason
- Sleep disruptions (unrelated to your baby’s night waking)
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Irrational fears or intrusive thoughts about harm that may come to baby
What is one thing (or more) that you want mom’s with PPD or PPA to know?
I wish that moms (ALL new moms) knew that there is nothing to be ashamed of in experiencing these symptoms – so many women experience postpartum depression and/or anxiety (recent stats suggest 1 in 7).
I want moms to know that there is help available, and that they are not alone. With the right help and supports, you CAN get through this, and have a wonderful experience in motherhood.
I read recently that only about 20% of women who are experiencing symptoms of PPD/PPA seek help and the number one reason cited by those who didn’t look for professional support was shame. I say it’s high time we kicked shame to the curb and do a better job in not just screening for postpartum mood disorders but in advocating for support, educating family doctors and OB/GYNs about resources that are available for their patients, and shining a light on this experience so no mother has to suffer in silence.
What would you suggest to pregnant mothers to help them prepare for the challenges that come with being a new mom?
Wow! That’s a BIG question! There are so many things that would be helpful for a new mom to know. When I was pregnant with my first, instead of cards at my baby shower, all the moms in attendance wrote in a journal for me – “Things I Wish I Had Known” – it was such a great supportive experience having the wisdom of other women who ran in age from their 20s to their 90s. The top pieces of advice were:
Ask for and accept help. It’s okay to not do it all on your own. When your friend/neighbour/cousin asks what they can do…tell them! Trust that people who offer to help sincerely mean they want to help.
Get out of the house daily. Even if it’s only to walk baby to the end of the driveway and back, just the act of getting outside can make things feel more “normal”
Everyone says “sleep when baby sleeps” – I know that this piece of advice is much easier said than done. Maybe it should be “do something for you that fills your well while baby sleeps” For me, this was my time to have a hot shower, drink a hot coffee, answer an email, etc… For others that I know, this was the time that they napped. Find the thing that you need to do to feel like you and do that while baby sleeps.
What are a few things you usually suggest to moms who are struggling with PPD/PPA?
For moms who are living with the symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety we usually work on some stress reduction techniques, Examples of this would be: progressive relaxation, mindful breathing, and thought stopping (edited to add: I will be talking about all of these techniques more on the blog soon, so stay tuned for that).
I use journals a lot in my practice and frequently use emotion logs with clients who are feeling overwhelmed by their symptoms. It can be really helpful to record the frequency of negative and positive feelings or experiences so as therapy progresses, mom can see how her moods have improved and get a sense of what her individual triggers might be.
If a Mom who is reading this thinks she might have PPD/PPA what would you want her to know?
I’m going to go back to my first answer: You are not alone. It’s okay to not be okay. There is help out here for you and you don’t have to do this by yourself. You matter. Reach out to your doctor or a counsellor in your area as soon as you are able, and you will start feeling better soon.
Take Home Message:
Thank you to Kerri again, for sharing such valuable and practical information on maternal mental health! This is a topic that I am very passionate about, as so many women struggle after having a baby and it is not talked about enough. I hope that by talking openly about postpartum depression and anxiety, woman can feel safe talking about their struggles, and feel confident reaching out for help. There are treatments available and you do not need to suffer in silence!
Share this post with anyone you know who is a new or expectant mother. Let them know that you are there for them, and that you support them!
If you are needing to reach out to someone to talk about your mental health and not sure where to start, please check out Kerri’s webpage here, or as always feel free to send me a message with any questions you have.