Originally posted September 11, 2017.
Pregnancy and birth are major adult transitions filled with joy, but the transition to parenthood can also bring up feelings of insecurity, sadness or fear as you and your partner move into this different phase of self-identity. Parenting an infant is difficult, but if one of you had a complicated early family life, parenting is like navigating rough waters, as flashbacks to unpleasant scenes from childhood intrude upon present reality.
If you’ve experienced a previous depression or anxiety or trauma or went through infertility treatments, have a baby in the NICU, or experienced childhood abuse, you have a higher risk that the physical and emotional changes of childbirth could bring on recurrent symptoms. Because of the hormonal fluctuations experienced at childbirth, 85% of all women experience the baby blues, which is a sadness after childbirth that resolves itself in about 2 weeks.
In some women (about 15 – 20%), those initial feelings don’t resolve, and they experience significant postpartum depression or anxiety. In addition, about 6% of women experience post-traumatic stress resulting from a traumatic birth or from feelings triggered from past trauma, such as prior sexual assault. Lack of sleep also contributes to symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Current research does not show a clear picture of all the factors as to why women suffer from perinatal mood disorders. It seems that a convergence of biological, psychological and social – biopsychosocial – factors play a role in the intensification of anxiety and mood disorders during the childbearing year. In other words, it is likely that past personal issues, hormonal changes and stressors from your current situation can create a vulnerability to mood disorders in the childbearing year.
Self care for the new mother is extremely important, including good nutrition and a prescription for sleep. Social support is essential as well, in the form of both emotional and visible support, such as having a friend or hiring a postpartum doula to help out with baby care and cooking meals. It’s wise to set up a postpartum support plan, so you will have help after the baby comes.
Some self-help ways to manage anxiety is by practicing relaxation every day for 10 minutes a day.
Relaxation is an acquired skill. If you need some help relaxing, downloading an app of guided imagery is a nice option. Studies show that just eight weeks of relaxation practice makes huge difference in anxiety levels. An easy yoga practice is another great stress reducer. Expressive journaling can also help relieve stress.
If the feelings of depression and anxiety persist, don’t be afraid to reach out for professional support and manage the feelings that are intruding on your everyday life. I work from a mindbody perspective, integrating mindfulness, talk therapy, EMDR, DBT and craniosacral modalities to jumpstart my clients’ healing process to resolve trauma.
My clinical orientation is relational which is supported by research as the foundation of talk therapy: the healing nature of the therapeutic relationship. I have a mindbody approach and use EMDR and craniosacral work as needed in each individual situation. I work with birth trauma, perinatal mood disorders, trauma resulting from accidents, crime, emotional and sexual abuse, medical procedures (even when necessary such as for cancer), and coping with illness and pain.
Please call Kathy Morelli, LMT, CA, LPC at 973-713-5966 or visit my websites at www.kathymorelli.com and www.birthtouch.com for more information.