PPPSS News & Events

Support Groups for Postpartum Depression

Support Groups at Pacific Post Partum

By Linda King, Staff

In addition to the telephone support line, we offer Mother’s Support Groups. Our support groups are a safe place for women to talk openly about their experiences. A number of counseling/facilitating staff members have used a support group themselves in their healing journey. All of our counselling and facilitating staff are mothers who have experienced and resolved perinatal distress.

The groups are weekly two-hour sessions, each with up to eight members. We currently have groups in Richmond, North Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, Cloverdale and two in Vancouver, with two additional groups opening this Fall (one in Burnaby and an additional group in Vancouver).

When a mom joins the group for the first time, she can expect to be welcomed warmly. Our groups are “open ended,” meaning that when a mom joins, she will likely meet moms who have been there for varying lengths of time and in various stages of recovery. This can be very helpful to both the new mom and the present members. It provides hope to the new mom that her well-being will return, as she can meet others who are learning positively. Moms join and exit the group depending on their needs. The groups are not drop-in, as it is very important that there is a sense of consistency.

On the first night, we go through the guidelines including confidentiality and its limits. During an opening round, the facilitator and present group members introduce themselves to the new mom telling a bit about their experience, what brought them to the group and perhaps what it was like for them to come on their first night. This can help the new group member to feel more at ease. The new mom is invited to introduce herself and she can say as much or as little as she is comfortable with. I will often hear the new mom say that she can hear parts of her story in all the other mom’s stories. She is often quite relieved that she can talk about what is going on and know she’ll be supported and not judged. She knows she is not alone.

The following is what happens in the postpartum groups at the Pacific Post Partum Support Society:

  • Women come and begin right where they are;
  • A set agenda for the woman is not imposed. Women work at their own pace, in their own way, with guidance and support from the facilitator and the other group members;
  • It is acknowledged that the woman has expertise about herself;
  • Women begin to tell their stories;
  • Initially, women are amazed at how similar the themes of their stories are to that of other women;
  • Women talk openly and honestly about the realities of their lives. As they release the difficult feelings and thoughts, space is made for the feelings of joy;
  • The woman and her process is honored and trusted;
  • The group works together to begin to externalize the myths of motherhood;
  • Women begin to see that perinatal depression/anxiety/adjustment is not about personal inadequacy, but is tied in with myths which place high expectations on mothers, by others, the woman herself and society;
  • The woman will begin to have the mothering role fit the self, rather than the self fit the mothering role;
  • Women acknowledge their self worth;
  • She begins to learn, as a Mom and as a woman, self-care strategies for getting in touch with her own unique needs and wants;
  • Women begin to write and rewrite their own descriptions of motherhood. (This writing and rewriting will continue all through motherhood);
  • She will gain more insight into how to keep more central her needs, wants, capacities, limitations, experiences and hopes.

Goals of the Support Group

  • Provide safety (guidelines);
  • Offer hope;
  • Lessen isolation;
  • Women support each other;
  • Women share experiences;
  • Recognize and build on strengths;
  • Validate women and Mother work;
  • Encourage self-care;
  • Explore and normalize feelings;
  • Increase sense of identity;
  • Increase self-esteem;
  • Increase knowledge and skills;
  • Encourage personal growth;

If you are interested in attending a support group, call our telephone support line to speak with a counsellor: 604.255.7999

The Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Signs & Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

By Sheila Duffy, Staff

How do you know if you have postpartum depression, or are experiencing a difficult adjustment or even normal feelings? Do all new moms feel like this? Why doesn’t anyone talk about what it is really like?

These are just a few commonly asked questions when new moms call our support line. They are often confused as to why they are feeling the way they are feeling. Most of us hold the same belief before we have our kids, “This is supposed to be a happy time.” And if our pregnancy was unexpected, or we weren’t entirely sure this is what we wanted, we can feel even more shame.

So when is it postpartum depression? And when and how do we know that we need to reach out, see our doctor or go on medication?

Pacific Post Partum Support Society believes that it is rarely one issue that is contributing to your distress, most likely it is many issues. Some of which are outlined here in our philosophy:

Our Society believes that PPD/A is a family and social issue with factors such as isolation, poverty, lack of child care and the stressful nature of mothering playing important contributing roles.

Some of what you may experience as a new mom is “common.” After having a baby, many women realize they had no idea what it was really going to be like. And because at first it can be kind of like being in shock, as the changes are so sudden and so huge, it takes awhile to settle in to this new job and this new life. It may also be confusing because the media often uses “postpartum depression” as an umbrella term for anything from a difficult adjustment, the baby blues, anxiety, to sometimes postpartum psychosis, a completely different illness that can happen when we have a baby, but which is not postpartum depression.

So how do we know? One way is to monitor and pay attention to how long the feelings last. Do they come and go; are you still able to function, or is it debilitating? A rule of thumb is: generally if it lasts longer than a couple of weeks, then it may be PPD/A and it is really important to let someone know, either your doctor, public health nurse, your partner or a trusted friend. Many people call us to talk about how they are feeling as a first step, sometimes that call can be all they need to begin the journey towards feeling better. There is also a questionnaire called the EPDS that you can access on our website or through your Doctor or Public Health Nurse. Please discuss the results with a health professional. This is not a diagnosis, but it can help to know what steps to take to increase support and make sure you are getting the help you need.

What are some of the common symptoms of PPD/A;

  • Feeling isolated, either because you are alone, you feel alone in how you feel, you are disconnected or just not able to let anyone know;
  • Sleep is disrupted, often because of baby and feeding, but for many moms they are unable to get back to sleep, or get to sleep in the first place, or they may be just wanting to do nothing else but sleep;
  • Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope. If you have PPD/A, these feelings are very intense;
  • Scary and intrusive thoughts. Many women who are experiencing anxiety postpartum will have thoughts sometimes described as “flashes” of ideas or images of harm coming to their baby, sometimes it is that they have inflicted harm. The thoughts are very alarming and distressing for Mom, as she is wanting to keep her baby safe from harm, she wonders why she would have them and what they mean. Please read more about intrusive thoughts;
  • Overly concerned for baby and not able to relax;
  • Worrying and anxious about lots of things;
  • Feeling angry and irritable;
  • Anxiety or panic attacks;
  • Some women have suicidal thoughts; it is important to reach out and let someone know as you deserve to feel better and there is treatment and support available.

Many women and dads can feel some of these feelings some of the time, but they are fleeting or they don’t last more than a few days. For some people if it is a difficult adjustment, getting more sleep, getting more support, having someone to talk to about feelings can be all it takes to feel better. For others, it may be more complex and, therefore, important to get the right support. We encourage anyone who is wondering to call us, or reach out to someone who knows and understands postpartum issues; there is no need to go through this alone. The good news is that everyone gets better!

We believe that we are meant to have and raise our children within a community of support. Our society now is often fragmented and support that used to come from extended family is missing for many of us, we need to reach out to others in the community to help us, whether we have PPD/A or not.

Through mutual aid and emotional support, women are empowered to engineer their own recovery and to learn skills of self-care which encourage healthy life choices for themselves and their families.


I’m Having Scary Thoughts

Scary Thoughts Blog by Postpartum.org

Call if you need us 604-255-7999.

Recently we posted a response to The New York Times article on Postpartum Depression. It is great that a major publication like this one is paying attention to issues in Maternal Mental Health. Our concern with the article, and which was recently reiterated by a Huffington Post article, was that women reading it might get confused by symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety and symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis.

The New York Times article talked about “scary thoughts,” this is where a woman experiences unwanted, intrusive and often repetitive thoughts about harm coming to her baby. In some instances, and more disturbing to her, are thoughts that she will cause harm to her baby. The idea of harming her child is abhorrent to a woman in this state, she is in-touch with a maternal drive to protect her child and would in no way act on these thoughts. This is quite different from Postpartum Psychosis, which is an illness whereby a woman loses touch with reality and it only occurs in 1-2 of 1000 births. She may have thoughts of harm, either to herself or her baby, and in many instances this is driven by the belief that what she is doing will protect her child. She is delusional, often paranoid and can experience hallucinations. Women who experience Postpartum Psychosis need emergency medical treatment.

We talk to many women here at Pacific Post Partum Support Society who experience Postpartum Anxiety and who report that they have scary thoughts of harm coming to their children. We  hope that women everywhere can feel safe in sharing these thoughts with caregivers and support networks like our organization, so that adequate help can be provided. We want women to feel safe to share what is happening, and too often women who experience scary thoughts feel ashamed, and embarrassed or live in fear that if they disclose what is happening to them, someone will take away their child. There is support and treatment available so she can begin to feel some relief and to not feel alone and afraid.

Here is one woman’s experience with scary thoughts:

It began when my son was three months old. My anxiety had progressed and I began to have vivid and terrifying thoughts of harm coming to my child. I imagined myself holding my son out over the banister of our stairs, at the highest point, and dropping him. I was so horrified by this image that I could no longer carry my baby up the stairs, and when I had to – I went quickly turning my back to the railing and protecting him with my body. I had to ask my husband to get my son in the middle of the night to nurse and most days when my husband went to work, baby and I stayed downstairs. I would have this thought, not occasionally, but repetitively throughout the day. And it felt uncomfortable. I was afraid to disclose this to anyone but eventually did in order to get myself the help I needed to get better. I don’t think many people understand that these are terrifying thoughts exactly because I do not want to do them, I want to protect my child and care for him.


If you or someone you know is experiencing scary, repetitive and anxiety-producing thoughts, please let them know that we can help.

A Blog About Postpartum Mood Disorders

Pacific Post Partum Support Society

Pacific Post Partum Support Society is dedicated to helping mothers, and their families, cope with symptoms of postpartum mood disorders. The model we were built upon, when we began as an informal gathering more than 40 years ago, is one of mothers supporting mothers. We carry on this tradition today in our programming; we believe that a woman suffering from a postpartum mood disorder can benefit from sharing her experiences with another woman who has or is travelling on a similar journey. We offer groups and telephone support to women in need, and education, information and guidance to the community through workshops.

We believe that postpartum depression is a problem with many dimensions and effects. We hope to empower women to drive their own recovery, by breaking the isolation that many new mothers experience, by understanding what is contributing to their postpartum difficulties and by learning about self care.

This blog is new for us, and we hope it is a space you visit often. Our aim in posting information here is to keep you informed of the issues surrounding postpartum mood disorders including the latest research. It is also to foster a great sense of community amongst those we support or have supported in the past, members of our staff and board, as well as stakeholders and leaders in the healthcare sector. A community is built upon shared stories, and here we want to craft the stories that affect you, impact your life and further the conversation around how best to help women cope with the huge adjustment to motherhood. We will post on topics like frequently asked questions, research, self-care tips and more. We strive to be a leading resource guiding women, their caregivers and loved ones through the strife of maternal mental illness.

To help us stay relevant and supportive of your needs, please provide us with feedback. And help us to spread the word about what helps parents during a difficult postpartum adjustment, including depression and anxiety by posting our content to your social media profiles.


Thank you!


The Staff and Volunteers of Pacific Post Partum Support Society

New Findings on Postpartum Depression & Our Response

Response to Findings on Postpartum Depression - postpartum.org

Recently, The New York Times published an article on Postpartum Depression entitled,‘Thinking of Ways to Harm Her’ New Findings on Timing and Range of Maternal Mental Illness. The article takes a look at Postpartum Mood Disorders in light of recent research that has changed the scope of the inquiry. It is now found that many women suffer from mental illness during pregnancy, as well as during the first year postpartum. The article also reports that the range of disorders women experience is also broader than previously thought. Women can experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Psychosis and Bi-Polar Disorder.

This is an excellent article about Postpartum Mood Disorders and it highlights the fact that the onset is often during pregnancy. The stories highlighted in the article talk about intrusive thoughts, as well as more serious symptoms of postpartum psychosis.

We feel it is important to note the following, Postpartum Psychosis is different from having “intrusive thoughts.” Intrusive thoughts are a common symptom experienced by women dealing with Postpartum Depression/Anxiety and are often associated with anxiety, as well as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Mothers are extremely unlikely to act on these thoughts. They are disturbed and upset at the nature of these thoughts, and could never imagine hurting their children. They are horrified and ashamed, and are scared to share these thoughts with others as a result.

Although the risk of Psychosis is low, it is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Women who experience Psychosis, as distinct from those who suffer from Postpartum Anxiety or Depression, lose touch with reality; they see and hear things that aren’t there. This website is a great resource for families dealing with psychosis.