Are You Planning For Parenthood Or Adjusting To Life Postpartum?
Are you preparing to start a family or actively trying to conceive, but feel overwhelmed by the unknown? Are you an expectant or new mother, but feel fearful, tense, on guard or have unrealistic or excessive worries about your pregnancy or new baby? Or, perhaps you feel extremely sad or depressed or have thoughts that you will not be a good enough mother. Are you dealing with infertility or coping with a miscarriage and don’t know where to turn for support? Perhaps you and your partner are struggling to communicate effectively around your transition into parenthood, causing tension in your marriage or relationship. Whatever your unique experience, you may wish there was a way to relieve distress and move forward with an increased sense of confidence and calm.
While pregnancy and new motherhood can be joyful experiences, they can also be very overwhelming. Coping with pregnancy stressors and the transition into motherhood can onset heavy emotions that you may not feel equipped to handle. You might turn to friends or family for advice and support, only to find, time and time again, that your worries return. Your distress may be manifesting physically through headaches, stomachaches, sleeping or eating issues or even panic. If you’re experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety symptoms, such as racing thoughts, trouble bonding with your child, sleep issues and more, you may not feel like yourself. Although you knew motherhood would be a challenge, it may feel harder than you expected.
Mood and Anxiety Disorders Are Common Perinatal Complications
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the stress of motherhood, you are not alone. Transitioning into motherhood causes a change in mood for most women. In fact, anxiety and mood concerns are more common during pregnancy and postpartum than at any other point in a woman’s life. According to the New York Department of Health, 20 percent of women experience perinatal depression and/or anxiety, and one in seven women experience depression during pregnancy or in their first year postpartum.
Because pregnancy and new motherhood are often viewed as happy experiences, feelings of anxiety and/or depression may surprise or disappoint you. Because it’s so common for women to feel worried, irritable or exhausted before, during and after pregnancy, postpartum depression and anxiety often go untreated. When left untreated, postpartum depression may not only develop into chronic depression but can also impair your child’s cognitive and emotional development, your relationship with him or her, and your relationships with others. And, parents tend to experience higher rates of stress and conflict in their relationship post birth compared to any other phase.
Fortunately, with the appropriate, evidence-based support, pregnancy counseling can help you overcome difficulties, embrace your identity as an expectant or new mother and thrive in your relationship with yourself, your child and your partner.
Maternal Mental Health Counseling Can Help You Thrive
Counseling can be incredibly helpful in providing you with the support and guidance needed to process and overcome difficult emotions, thoughts and behaviors surrounding pregnancy and motherhood. In a safe, compassionate space, you can express your deepest worries, fears and concerns and receive tools, insight and guidance as you move forward.
My primary approach to postpartum depression treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), an evidence-based approach that is widely recognized as a valuable treatment option for reproductive-related mood disorders. CBT is designed to help you better manage and understand your emotions, body responses, thoughts and behaviors. When you’re able to identify triggers to distress and how these triggers influence the way you think, feel and behave, you can begin to make positive, lasting changes.
Self-care is also a vital component of this work. During our initial appointments, I will conduct a comprehensive assessment of your nutrition, exercise, sleep, support system and time you allot for yourself. All of these elements are integral components of mood management. When appropriate, I may also teach you effective skills, such as diaphragmatic breathing and muscle relaxation, to manage stress symptoms.
The overall goal of maternal mental health therapy is not to eradicate stressful or worrisome thoughts altogether, as these can be appropriate components of your transition into motherhood. Instead, we work to identify your goals and develop realistic, compassionate new ways of dealing with your perinatal mood or anxiety concerns in healthy, productive ways. Whether you are planning to conceive, well into your pregnancy or adjusting to life postpartum, working with an experienced psychologist can empower you to take control over your health and engage more fully in your role as a mother.
You may still have questions or concerns about maternal mental health counseling…
+ Don’t all new moms feel exhausted, irritable and worried?
Yes, it’s true that motherhood is a difficult transition for most. Between 60 and 80 percent of new mothers experience the “Baby Blues” following delivery. Although feelings of distress are a normal part of postpartum adjustment, if you find symptoms of anxiety and/or depression overbearing or persisting beyond two weeks, meeting with a professional can provide you with the support you need. Investing in your own mental health can not only improve your quality of life but can also enhance your ability to communicate with and engage intimately and compassionately with your child, partner and community.
+ How long am I going to feel this way?
Because everyone is unique, the course of treatment is individualized to each woman’s mental health history and current life situation. That said, cognitive therapy is an evidence-based treatment approach that has helped countless women experience relief. In just a few sessions, you will likely experience symptom reduction. The sooner you seek professional support, the more rapidly your symptoms will remit.
+ With all the demands of caring for my new baby, I’m worried I don’t have time for therapy.
Motherhood can certainly be demanding of your time and emotional and physical energy. However, carving out just one hour a week to learn effective stress management strategies can actually lead to a greater sense of overall balance in your life.