At the READ Clinic we understand that from the time you find out you are pregnant to the first twelve months of baby’s life, things can be a roller coaster of emotion. From happy to sad, to overwhelmed to rejoicing.
The Perinatal Period
The perinatal period covers pregnancy and the first 12 months after birth.
Here are some things to be aware of during this time.
Pregnancy can be a time when women experience heightened emotional states. Anxiety can be common, especially for women who have experienced previous losses or difficulties conceiving. Pre-existing fears or worries may manifest themselves during pregnancy. Worries specific to the safety of the baby can become overwhelming. Many women speak of the ‘horror stories’ other women tell them, and these stories can be frightening for some pregnant women. Specific fear of childbirth is also a very real issue. Many women can become obsessed about cleanliness or fear how their life might change once the baby is born.
Having a baby is a major life event that involves dramatic changes – changes to daily routines, sleep patterns, roles, relationships, and self-identities. The new responsibilities and demands of parenthood can be overwhelming for some people. In some cases, women can feel so fearful of harm befalling their babies, that they experience obsessive fears or intrusive thoughts (often disturbing and associated with shame). Although most new mothers experience fleeting intrusive thoughts about their babies’ safety, some women find these thoughts intolerable, question themselves, and even avoid caring for their babies alone. Some women find themselves performing compulsive behaviours. These symptoms are not uncommon, and are treatable.
The transition to parenthood can also be difficult when a woman has experienced a traumatic birth, when there are other life pressures (including financial pressure, feeding difficulties, a very unsettled infant, social isolation, ill health, relationship and family difficulties), and lack of supports. Some new parents feel overwhelmed with disappointment and unmet expectations about the gender of their baby (gender disappointment) – often feeling embarrassed to speak about these feelings, thereby carrying the burden of shame or fears of not being able to love their baby.
New mothers can find themselves comparing the development of their babies to other babies, and searching for the “right” approach to any number of parenting matters (e.g. feeding, sleeping, settling, stimulating, etc.). This can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, and can leave women feeling distressed, and in some cases, worthless.
Just as every baby is different, every new parents’ experience is different, and can range from transient stress to more prolonged stress or more serious mood or anxiety disorders (for both women and men). Various stages in the first few years of parenting can trigger emotional distress (e.g. weaning, returning to work, toddler tantrums, adjusting to childcare, etc).
At the READ Clinic we have practitioners trained to treat the many and varied issues that are associated with this pre and post natal period, including:
1. Bringing Baby Home
This research-based intervention teaches pregnant and parenting couples to successfully prepare couples for life with baby and helps them be the best parenting team possible.
2. Circle of Security Parenting ™
The 8-week Circle of Security Parenting program based upon decades of research that uses a real world model to help parents develop a secure relationship with their child. It helps parents to see their child’s behaviour as a reflection of their needs, and how to support these needs during the easy times and the hard times.
3. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a very effective treatment for postpartum psychological issues. It is focused on identifying unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Parents learn different ways of thinking and reacting to situations that trigger depression and/or anxiety. Parents also learn behavioural activation, which involves scheduling activities, such as exercise, social activities, or even just “getting out of the house,” that bring happiness. Additionally, it will involve looking for ways to help you get additional support to help with your baby or household duties. CBT might also involve sessions partners or spouses and finding ways of improving communication.
EMDR (especially if you have trauma in your previous experiences and/or the birth or other factors in your child’s first few months of life have been traumatic). This form of treatment enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session.
Please note: A rare but severe complication of the postnatal period is postpartum psychosis. If a partner or family member notices a significant, disturbing change in the new mother, medical help should be sought immediately.
Antenatal Fact Sheets
Access a range of fact sheets for women and their families on antenatal mental health concerns from COPE (Centre of Perinatal Excellence)
Postnatal Fact Sheets
Access a range of fact sheets for women and their families on postnatal mental health concerns from COPE (Centre of Perinatal Excellence)