postpartum anxiety

The Necessity of Non-Judgmental Support

For most of my life, I haven't been known to be quiet about my thoughts or feelings. I've always been pretty fiery and passionate about things that matter to me, and I can quickly formulate a spitfire response to just about anything I have an opinion on. For those that have known me more than a decade, they are nodding their heads in agreement. For those that have come into my life more recently, they might be surprised to learn this about me, because becoming a mother and a doula has changed this part of me, dramatically. 

I'm still as passionate as ever. I always have a fire burning in my belly about the things I care deeply about, and I will often write pages and pages of unpublished literature on the things that feel pressing or important to me.


I've learned through the challenges and choices I've faced as a parent, that what I have to say isn't always important or relevant to everyone else, and that's okay. 


Before my oldest son was born I had all kinds of ideas about what I'd look like as a parent, and  one of the most important things to me as a new mother was to breastfeed my baby.  I didn't have many reasons to believe I wouldn't be able to, nor did I have any real awareness of the obstacles that might present themselves. 

Well, the obstacles - they presented themselves, fiercely. Just about everything that could go wrong went wrong, and I cried many tears over the pain and struggle of feeding my baby. I spent the first few months balancing painful, toe-curling breastfeeding sessions with expressed bottles of milk and some formula supplementing. I'll never forget bottle-feeding breastmilk to my baby in the corner of Starbucks, trying to integrate myself back into society as a new mom, and feeling like I'd failed to do the one thing that matter most to me; I was embarrassed and ashamed. I cringed at the thought that moms everywhere were judging me, and that nobody would know my struggle; nobody would know how hard I'd fought and the reasons why I was just about ready to give up on it. More experienced moms would ask me how breastfeeding was going, and I could only assume they'd have nothing but insensitive remarks about 'breast being best'. I couldn't even handle the thought of hearing or reading those words. 


What I did need to hear was that I was enough, and that no matter the choices I made for myself and my baby, that I'd be unconditionally supported without judgement. 


I didn't hear those words, though they may have been spoken. What was loudest above the noise were things I heard and read, like, "breast is best", and "don't worry, it'll get easier". But it didn't get easier, and meanwhile, no one was actually walking in my shoes, and I wasn't comfortable in them. 

Recently a colleague shared her perspective on this subject; one I could have used 7 years ago when I was drenched in guilt on my breastfeeding journey:

"Our legs are made for walking and yet we invented cars. They both get us places but in different ways. Each with their own conveniences/inconveniences, pros/cons, safety/dangers. There is a fetishizing of 'natural' that runs counter to most of the ways we live our modern lives. Breast milk and formula are different ways to feed babies. I choose to avoid words like better or superior because they aren't necessary, they add judgment that isn't needed."

- Emily Pelton, Ownerof Doulas of Baltimore and the Director of Training and Development with ProDoula

This idea that there is no best, there is only you and your unique journey and experience, is somewhat radical, but so incredibly essential. Non-judgmental support is an empowering and unique gift I can offer women; it's one that is scarcely offered in a sea of opinions and scrutiny we are drenched in, daily. This doesn't mean avoiding the uncomfortable and sensitive subjects, it means becoming a safe space for truth to be shared. It means listening and hearing what is both spoken and unspoken with acknowledgement and validation: no strings attached.  


- Andrea Postal 




What You Need To Know About Postpartum Depression

Awareness about postpartum depression and postpartum mood disorders is becoming more prevalent, and for good reason. 10-15% of women will suffer from some form of Postpartum Mood Disorder sometime in the weeks, up to the first year, following the birth of their baby. Some of the risk factors for postpartum depression include a personal or family history of depression, a previous experience with postpartum depression with another child, stressful life circumstances during pregnancy and/or after your birth, having a baby with health issues, struggles with breastfeeding, or a lacking support system. Even without these risk factors, the physical affects of the drop in hormones after birth, sleep deprivation, and the emotional adjustment to life with a new baby can all play a part, making any woman at risk for PPD regardless of circumstance or history. 

Knowing the symptoms of this common issue will not only help you become more aware of how you may be coping during postpartum, but also to realize signs and symptoms in new mothers around you; after all: it takes a Village, in all respects of raising a child. The good news is, PPD is manageable and treatable through counselling, medication, and support.

Below are the different postpartum mood disorders to look out for:

Baby Blues

The hormones that were once strong and active as you grew your child, drastically plummet after birth. Baby blues can sometimes be described as a very intense PMS experience, causing you to be teary and emotional, anxious, sad, and irritable. Baby blues usually peaks around day 4 or 5, can last a few hours or days, and generally subsides around 2 weeks postpartum.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression symptoms can occur at any point after delivery, but typically emerge within the first weeks-3 months after delivery, and at any point during the first year of your baby's life. Symptoms include depression feelings or sadness, tearfulness, a disinterest in everyday activities, strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness, excessive tiredness and interrupted sleep, a loss of appetite, weakened ability to concentrate, or suicidal thoughts. Panic attacks or persistent anxiety may accompany depressive symptoms. 

Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Symptoms of Postpartum OCD usually involve intrusive, repetitive thoughts that are negative in nature. These thoughts will often appear out of nowhere, and can be persistent and frightening. Other symptoms include irrational thoughts related to the new baby, fear based compulsions such as obsessive cleaning, repeatedly checking to see if baby is safe and breathing, counting, reorganizing, or any other compulsive actions that are out of character for the mother. The mother may take extreme precautions to keep her newborn safe, which is usually accompanied by fear of being left alone to care for the infant. 

Postpartum Anxiety

Postpartum anxiety is characterized by pervasive thoughts that don't come and go like typical fears or worries usually do. Symptoms include irrational thoughts that something terrible is going to happen, extreme vigilance to protect baby, or avoidance of certain situations for fear of what may happen. Physical symptoms may also be present, including queasiness or stomach ache, increased heart rate, shallow breathing, loss of appetite, or sleepiness 

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is rare, and usually presents itself quickly after birth, within 24-48 hours, up to 2 weeks postpartum. Signs of psychosis include a dramatic onset of manic behaviours such as extreme depressive or elated feelings, erratic behaviour or delusional thoughts about the baby, disorientation, or auditory hallucinations suggesting harm to either the infant or the mother. 


Local Resources:

Mental Health Services, Courtenay: 250.331.8524

Public Health, Courtenay: 250.331.8520


Crisis Line and Phone Counselling:

Vancouver Island, 24 Hour Crisis Line: 1.888.494.3888

Pacific Postpartum Support Society: 1.855.255.7999


Web Resources:

Postpartum Depression, Online Screening Test: Here To Help

Post Partum Progress