Pregnancy, Birth and Early Parenting

The path to parenthood and adjusting to the significant changes that accompany having a baby can be extremely challenging. This experience can render some people vulnerable to the development or reoccurrence of a mental health disorder. This is a critical time for women and men. Individuals might notice changes, both during pregnancy and after birth, in the areas of physical and psychological health and wellbeing, relationships, and managing daily activities.

When assistance is needed

Current research shows that there is an increased risk of the development of mental health disorders in the perinatal phase for example ante and postnatal depression and anxiety, particularly for those individuals who have a pre-existing condition. At what point do feelings of sadness, distress or the “baby blues” progress beyond what can be considered a normal experience of pregnancy, birth and early parenting?

If symptoms intensify or persist for longer than two weeks the person may be experiencing difficulties that require assistance. The effective management of ante and postnatal depression and anxiety, and psychotic and adjustment disorders is important for the enduring relationships and health and wellbeing of the entire family.

Signs that a person is not coping may include:

  • fluctuating or persistently low mood
  • negative thinking
  • tearfulness
  • sleep & appetite problems
  • changes in energy level
  • poor concentration and memory
  • anxiety
  • avoidance (of people, places, activities, etc.)
  • misuse of alcohol and/or other drugs
  • preoccupation with morbid or obsessive thoughts
  • loss of pleasure including an inability to enjoy their baby

Of particular concern are symptoms of psychosis (i.e. delusions/false beliefs, hallucinations, unusual ideas) and thoughts or intention to harm self or baby, and prompt assessment and treatment by a health professional is recommended.

What to do next

  • Let someone that you trust know what is happening for you.
  • Alert your GP or Maternal and Child Health Nurse.
  • Contact psych180 with any questions you may have or to book an appointment with one of our clinical psychologists.

How can a Clinical Psychologist help you?

The benefit of seeing a clinical psychologist is having the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the things that stand in the way of achieving balance, emotional health and an improved quality of life for the individual and their whole family. Clinical psychologists are trained in assessment, diagnosis and the provision of evidence-based treatments that are tailored to meet a person’s specific needs.

Clinical psychologists can also work collaboratively with other health professionals to enhance treatment outcomes, i.e. in conjunction with a GP or psychiatrist who is providing medication for mental health difficulties that are considered more severe.

 Other specific issues for counselling may include:

  • Stress during pregnancy
  • Grief and loss, related to termination of a pregnancy, miscarriage and stillbirth, lifestyle for example
  • Trauma related to delivery complications
  • Problems with the infant’s health
  • Expectations related to the mothering role
  • Parenting issues, including sleep deprivation, single parenting, and difficulties with their infant’s feeding and sleeping
  • Relationship issues with partner

Resources