There are many names for the mental health issues that women experience both during pregnancy and postpartum. The clinical term is “perinatal mood disorders.” We like to use the broad term “maternal mental health” because most people know what that means.
In our society we often use the term “postpartum depression,” but that does not encompass the other disorders that women can experience during pregnancy and postpartum. An example would be anxiety or bipolar disorder. Anxiety is actually more prevalent than depression for pregnant and postpartum moms. Many of these disorders that women experience are not talked about and there are many reasons why.
What if Pregnancy or Being a New Mom Isn’t What You Thought It Would Be?
Society tells women that having a baby should be the “happiest time of your life.” So when it is not, women are afraid to admit it. Women are afraid to tell others they are having “scary thoughts” because they don’t want anyone thinking they aren’t capable of taking care of their infant. There are many reasons why women don’t seek help, but of course, this causes the mom to continue suffering and could affect their ability to bond with their baby.
Therapy Works For Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety and Depression
There is no shame in admitting that you are struggling with your pregnancy and during the postpartum period. As many as 1 in 7 moms experience maternal mental health issues, but many women feel alone because it is rarely talked about. Research has shown that therapy does help mental health issues during this important time in a woman’s life. Various therapeutic techniques are used for this population, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT).
Another area moms can focus on to feel better is by increasing their reliance on their support network. Often new moms are afraid or don’t think they need to ask for help with their new baby. Having a break from caring for your baby and doing some self-care activities can be an important part of your recovery process.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT works by helping you identify your unrealistic negative thoughts and teaching you to reframe them in a more positive, realistic way. Many new moms are unsure about their abilities to parent and care for a child and may be critical of themselves. CBT can help new moms feel more confident about their abilities by giving them a different perspective.
Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)
IPT views the client and their relationships in an attachment theory based context. Often, becoming a mom brings up issues the client may have had or currently has with their own mother. Examining this relationship and developing healthier ways of coping and communicating is part of this treatment.
How We Can Help
Many of our licensed therapists have been trained to specifically help pregnant and postpartum moms through the organization Postpartum Support International. One of the tools we use to assess severity of symptoms and track progress is the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), a simple questionnaire that women complete that takes only a few minutes.
Many women who start and continue therapy find that they start to feel better quickly. Often we hear “I want to feel like my old self again” and with the help of therapy we can help you do that.