Counselling Services for Adults
Perinatal Depression & Anxiety
Any of these symptoms, and many more, could indicate that you have a form of perinatal mood or anxiety disorder such as postpartum depression. While many women experience some mild mood changes during or after the birth of a child, 15-20% of women experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety. Let’s put that into perspective: there are approximately 17,000 births in the Fraser Health Authority each year. That means that there are between 2500- 3400 women experiencing symptoms of perinatal depression and anxiety every year in the lower mainland alone! Please know that with informed care you can prevent a worsening of these symptoms and you can fully recover. There is no need to be alone and continue to suffer.
Perinatal Depression and Anxiety (PPD/PPA) can occur in both women and men after the birth or adoption of a child. The symptoms can occur within the first few days, weeks, or months after the baby arriving. Very often the symptoms start in pregnancy but are overlooked as they can mask the symptoms experienced in the first and third trimesters.
An estimated 1 out of every 6 women, and 1 out of 10 men experiences troubling depression or anxiety after the birth or adoption of a child. The parents are often caught off guard by this and can find it very confusing. There is help and you do not need to be alone. For more information on the symptoms and contributing factors of PPD/PPA as well as treatment options you can contact me. Or if you would like online support go to www.postpartum.net and www.postpartum.org .
Grief and Loss
Pregnancy loss and infant death are sudden and unexpected, overwhelming and devastating. The loss may feel unbearable. You might feel shocked, numb, angry, sad, helpless, fatigued, and lonely. It may be difficult to concentrate and complete daily activities.
Therapy offers personalized, compassionate, and non-judgmental support for you to grieve an early miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, late miscarriage, medical termination, stillbirth, or infant death. In therapy, you can process your feelings and emotions, develop coping skills, learn to manage holidays and anniversaries, and re-establish balance in your life. You may need support in processing the trauma of your experiences
You and your partner may process grief in different ways. Couples counselling can help you support each other in your experience so that you stay connected. Working together, you will develop healthy ways to communicate with each other as well as family members and friends.
The loss of a child is traumatic in itself, however in many cases, families have witnessed their infant’s passing, found the baby themselves and then witnessed the attempts at resuscitation. This can leave parents feeling traumatized. They may have flashbacks of certain parts of their experience that they are haunted by. The brain takes time to process traumatic events, and in some instances traumatic images, smells, sounds etc. can not be fully integrated and therefore act as triggers. Over time, these triggers should desensitize, however, if they do not, then your brain can be triggered into reacting as if you are right back in the actual event.
I facilitate a Perinatal Loss Support Group through Abbotsford Hospice that is offered free of charge. Please contact Abbotsford Hospice at 604 852-2456 if you are interested in attending.
Am I Grieving Normally?
There is no right way to grieve. The following checklist may help you figure out how you are doing. As time passes, you will be able to answer “yes” to more and more questions. If you are not able to answer “yes” to many questions, or if you are unsure about how you are doing therapy can help.
- Am I able to laugh without feeling guilty?
- Do I pay attention to my personal appearance? (hair, clothes, make-up)
- Do I enjoy being out with friends for an evening?
- Am I feeling pleasure in sexual experiences?
- Am I able to sit quietly by myself and think of things other than the loss?
- Do I take an interest in current events and new? (television, radio, or newspaper)
- Do I feel I can effectively parent my surviving children?
- Am I able to do the daily tasks I am used to performing? (housework, cooking, yard work)
- Do I look forward to outings, trips, and special events?
- Am I involved in activities that I participated in before the loss? (work, volunteering, sports team, exercise)
- Can I talk about the loss without showing strong emotion? (sadness, anger, jealousy)
- Do I feel as though the fog has lifted?
- Do I pay attention to my surroundings? (beautiful scenery, the taste of food)
- Am I able to get a good night’s sleep and awaken feeling rested?
- Am I able to concentrate on work and conversation?
- Am I less forgetful and better able to think clearly?
- Can I recall past events?
- Do I feel stronger and more in control? (less like an open wound, better able to cope with others’ comments, better able to cope with everyday crises)
- Do I feel that there is meaning in my life?
Limbo, R.K., & Wheeler, S.R. (1998). When a baby dies: A handbook for healing and helping (2nd ed.). La Crosse, WI: Bereavement Services.
It is estimated that up to 30% or women are left feeling traumatized after the birthing experience and 2%-6% will have symptoms severe enough to be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a consequence. To put this into perspective, there are approximately 17,000 births per year in the Fraser Health Authority. That means that in the lower mainland, approximately 5000 women may be feeling traumatized after giving birth and between 340 and 1020 women may develop PTSD.
Health care professionals are largely unaware of this problem and support is very limited. The symptoms are often misdiagnosed as Post Partum Depression. Women themselves may be unable or unwilling to discuss their trauma with medical professionals, given that it may have been the medical profession that contributed in the first place.
Social support is often lacking as well. Traumatized women are often told by well-meaning family and friends to “just get over it” and “be grateful you have a healthy baby”. This lack of understanding and denial of the trauma can actually re-traumatize women and worsen their symptoms.
The following symptoms may occur shortly after the birth and are highly suggestive of maternal psychological trauma;
- Inability to sleep
- Delayed and/or reduced milk production
- Agitation and hyperarousal
- Emotional numbing and dissociation
- Intrusive, upsetting flashbacks of the birth
- Avoidance of all reminders of the birth
- Feeling sad, angry, or helpless about the birth
Misconceptions About Birth Trauma
Often people believe that women who have been traumatized by birth must have prior history of trauma (e.g., childhood sexual abuse) or some other mental health problems (e.g., depression or anxiety). This is not true. Research shows that the causes of maternal birth trauma are primarily situational, as are the causes of any trauma.
According to the official Diagnostic Statistical Manual DSM-IV-TR [9; p.466]:
The severity, duration, and proximity of an individual’s exposure to the tramatic event are the most important factors affecting the likelihood of developing PTSD. Although there is evidence that factors such as social support, family history and childhood experiences may influence its development, PTSD can develop in individuals without any predisposing conditions, particularly if the stressor is especially extreme.
Thus, the primary determinant of trauma and PTSD is the severity of the traumatic event, and not the history of prior trauma. Any person, even the strongest, healthiest individual, can be traumatized by a sufficiently strong traumatic event.
I am trained in several therapies specific to trauma and I am able to offer healing after a traumatic birth experience.
If you are reading this, you and/or your partner are experiencing some of the emotional difficulties commonly associated with infertility and are looking for some help in dealing with your feelings.
You are not alone. Up to one in every six couples is affected by infertility. Furthermore, infertility can take a huge physical, emotional and psychological toll on couples.
Infertility is an “unanticipated life crisis, very often unexplained, and lasting for an indeterminate length of time.”
Women who can’t easily conceive have the same level of distress
as women with cancer, heart disease, or who are HIV positive.
~Alice Domar, PhD
A diagnosis of infertility can be devastating. Infertility and Infertility treatment is often described as an “emotional roller coaster” filled with unforeseen challenges, losses and multiple treatment options.
People struggling with infertility often feel:
- Anxious, depressed or overwhelmed
- Stressed from physical, financial and emotional demands
- Distant from their partners, both emotionally and sexually
- Tension in their relationships with family, friends and colleagues
- Emotions of anger, guilt, negative self image, isolation and shame
- Fear and confusion about decisions to be made
- Fear of not ever being able to have a biological child
Counselling can help clients to:
- Give voice to your feelings
- Regain a sense of control in your life
- Reduce feelings of overwhelming grief, depression, isolation, and anxiety
- Enhance communication skills
- Cope with the stress of fertility treatments
- Strengthen relationships with partner, family and friends
- Offer hope and a greater sense of joy in life
Please contact me if you would like support during this very difficult journey.
Making the decision to adopt can be a difficult and emotional choice. It is important that you examine your reasons for adopting, your expectations, and your understanding of the lifelong commitment required. Finding someone who has experience with this process can help you as you make this important decision. I believe it is important for parents to make informed choices about adoption, including the specialized care that may be needed once you bring your child home. Children who are adopted from orphanages and/or have experienced severe neglect and trauma, often require specific interventions to allow their brains to adapt to their new environments, in a way that will promote health and healing.
If you have adopted a child, you already know the challenges as well as the
rewards that can come with this experience. While there are many resources and support groups available to adoptive parents and their children, sometimes
individual attention can help you address the specific needs of your child and
your family. I can help you and your adoptive child as you work your way through the ordinary and unusual situations that arise in adoptive families.
Please contact me if you would like to enquire about services around issues related to early childhood and adoption.
Post Abortion Support
The choice to medically terminate a pregnancy can be overwhelming and devastating for both the woman and her partner. It is often a secret that is kept and can lead to feelings of guilt and isolation. The entire process may have left you feeling traumatized despite having some choice in the decision making process.
Some women experience strong negative feelings immediately after the termination and other may experience difficulties years later. Post abortion grief can be related to a woman’s age, length of pregnancy, previous mental health, religious or cultural beliefs, or whether she was pressured into the termination.
Post Abortion Stress is described as the inability to:
- Process the painful thoughts and emotions about a crisis pregnancy and subsequent abortion – guilt, anger and sorrow.
- Identify the loss that has incurred
- Come to peace with self and others
Symptoms of Post Abortion Stress may include:
- Feeling compelled to conceal an abortion
- Experiencing prolonged depression
- Psychological “numbing”
- Experiencing disturbing thoughts about babies and abortion
- Having lingering guilt and shame
- Believing you are unworthy
- Avoiding relationships or struggling with intimacy
- Reacting physically and emotionally when abortion is mentioned
- Anxiety over fertility or childbearing issues
If you feel that you have not fully resolved your experience, I can help. Please contact me to see how we can work together to help you move forward in your life in a way that can offer healing. I offer counselling one on one as well as for couples. .