Pregnancy & Postpartum
Pregnancy and the postpartum period are times of great transition. Overwhelming physical and hormonal changes are accompanied by sleep deprivation and new responsibilities. While we expect this to be a time of great joy and excitement, many women are unaware of the range of emotions they may experience. For some women, including those who previously experienced infertility or loss, or who are experiencing prenatal medical complications, pregnancy can be a time of great anxiety. Pregnancy can also trigger previous traumas, or result in feelings of sadness or depression. Getting help for these issues during pregnancy can help you and your baby prenatally, and can often help reduce the likelihood of difficulties in the post-partum period.
After having a baby, many women struggle with identity shifts, attachment concerns, loss of independence, relationship adjustments, isolation, questions about returning to work, body image issues, and a wide range of emotional highs and lows. It is essential to feel supported during this time and I am here to help with these and other complicated issues that often accompany the transition to parenthood.
In addition to the above concerns, a large portion of mothers (1 in 7) will suffer from a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder within a year of giving birth. Many women who experience difficult postpartum reactions are aware that something is wrong, but symptoms often leave them feeling ashamed, confused, and alone. As an expert in perinatal mental health, I will partner with you to understand your experience and to help you feel better quickly. I treat a wide range of reproductive mental health issues that develop during and after pregnancy, including depression, generalized anxiety, obsession compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder. These disorders are very treatable and with help, you can feel well again.
Common risk factors for developing a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder include:
- Prior history of depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder
- Sensitivity to hormonal changes (history of PMS)
- Cumulative sleep deprivation
- Conception following infertility treatments
- Difficult pregnancy or traumatic birth
- Breastfeeding difficulties
- Lack of support
- Relationship problems
- Other life stressors
Common symptoms of Perinatal Distress:
- Feeling sad, depressed, and/or crying a lot
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or incompetence
- Fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbance
- Change in appetite
- Poor concentration
- Feeling inadequate to cope with the new infant
- Intense anxiety; rumination, obsessions
- Panic attacks
- Desire for perfectionism
- Excessive worry about baby’s health
- Repeated thoughts or images of frightening things happening to the baby
- Suicidal thoughts
Dads and Perinatal Distress:
Dads can also suffer during the perinatal period. Research shows that 1 in 10 dads feel depressed, and up to 18% develop a clinically significant anxiety disorder at some point during the pregnancy or the first year postpartum. Like women, men who have struggled with mental health issues in the past, who have significant life stressors, and who are dealing with relationship concerns are at higher risk for perinatal distress. Feeling excluded from the mother-infant bond in an additional risk factor for men.
In my practice, I work with dad’s who do not feel like themselves during their partner’s pregnancy and following birth. Like mothers, dad’s who seek treatment can feel better, and can more fully embrace life, parenthood, and their relationship with their partner.
Couples in the Perinatal Period:
Regardless or whether you or your partner feels anxious or depressed, as a couple, you may experience shifts in your relationship during pregnancy and the transition to parenthood. With all of the stresses new parents face, it is not surprising that many couples report a decrease in their relationship happiness after a child is born. There are many tools that can help couples work through their difficulties and strengthen their relationship in the postpartum period. In couples counseling, I provide these tools and help parents develop ways to stay connected and strong as they navigate the new world of parenthood.
If you are experiencing symptoms of perinatal distress or if you feel like you and your partner could benefit from relationship counseling, I hope you will contact me to schedule a phone consultation so that we can determine how I can best help you. Although it can be difficult to reach out for help, therapy can provide tremendous relief and support during this time of significant transition. Please know that you are not alone. Help is available and you will get better.