Through Births, Babies & Beyond’s partnership with Abrams Psychological Services (APS), we offer comprehensive counseling services that can address all of the needs for your journey through parenthood. Therapeutic services are offered in individual and/or group formats and the therapy team includes licensed social workers and psychologists specializing in maternal mental health. We believe that even with the best information of what to expect from a physical perspective, the psychological components of new parenthood need special attention. And, when there are unforeseen circumstances, it is critical for the parents to not feel alone, lost in the dark, or inadequate. Our team can help you find your way back into the light.
Going to give birth is one of the few times you go to the hospital and expect great things to happen. This excitement is understandable and a time for celebration. It also can set the stage for how deep the crash is when there is a traumatic outcome. Death of a child stands in opposition to the normal chronology of life. Children are supposed to outlive their parents. It doesn’t always turn out that way. Feelings of guilt dominate. The questions of “what did I do wrong?” or “what should I have done to prevent this” are compounded by people asking unintentionally brutal questions that imply that it was somehow the parents’ fault. The reality is, sometimes, there is no answer, no explanation that can make sense out of the chaos. The parents can find themselves immediately catapulted from expected excitement of the arrival of their newborn to grieving a child, without preparation, and often, without support. Our professionals understand. They’ve been in the trenches with mothers facing these losses.
Abnormal reactions to abnormal situations is normal behavior. An emergent, non-planned C-section. The baby requires a Neonatal ICU admission. Bleeding that is very difficult to control. Physical trauma resulting from birth. Shoulder dystocias which can require emergency procedures to deliver the baby. People don’t realize that there are complications that can occur in the childbirth process, even when the baby is delivered successfully, may be unharmed, as well as the mother, but it still can be psychologically traumatizing. This may manifest itself in nightmares, flashbacks (reliving the event repeatedly while awake), difficulties keeping related thoughts out of one’s mind, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, or many other ways. Collectively, these symptoms may represent a form of post-traumatic stress. Mothers may be reluctant to seek help for this condition, but it is very treatable and the longer they wait to get help, the harder it will be to alleviate the symptoms. Untreated, it can impact one’s effectiveness as a mother and it also may influence one’s mindset in future pregnancies.
Postpartum depression counseling
You know your script, right? You had a baby. Therefore, you should be ecstatic. Smiling from morning to night, thankful that God has answered your prayers. You have a healthy baby, so there’s no reason not to be happy. Nonsense. There are many things that can throw a mother into depression.
Risk factors for postpartum depression
Women at highest risk are those who have had a prior episode of postpartum depression or who have a history of depression or anxiety disorders, particularly if they were depressed during the pregnancy. Other risk factors include:
· A family history of depression or bipolar disorder
· A difficult or complicated pregnancy
· A multiple birth
· A lack of emotional support from partner, family and/or friends
· A history of severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
· Having a baby with physical or behavioral problems
· High stress due to family, work or financial difficulties
· Unrealistic expectations about motherhood
· A birth resulting from an unwanted pregnancy
Motherhood requires an adjustment to one’s lifestyle. And with that adjustment, there can be interacting factors that can increase the risk of depression. As an example, though older age of the mother doesn’t increase the risk of postpartum depression by itself, but mothers having babies at later ages can increase the chances of complications with pregnancy, the likelihood of having multiple births (even without the assistance of fertility drugs, and though they may be less likely to have financial stress, they still can be at risk for having unrealistic expectations of motherhood.
It is believed that the hormonal surges that follow childbirth are the culprit, but the truth is that there are many factors that contribute to the problems. It is also important to know that post-partum depression can follow childbirth, miscarriage or having a stillbirth. It can occur in the first few days after delivery or appear months down the road.
It is estimated that more than 20% of mothers will experience postpartum depression. It is particularly dangerous when people aren’t supportive and the woman does not seek help.
The two most common symptoms of postpartum depression are:
· Feeling sad or hopeless nearly every day.
· Losing interest in or not getting pleasure from most daily activities, and feeling this way nearly every day.
Nearly every day, you may also:
· Lose or gain weight. You may also feel like eating more or less than usual.
· Sleep too much or not enough. You may also have trouble sleeping, even when your baby is sleeping.
· Feel restless and not be able to sit still, or you may sit quietly and feel that moving takes great effort. Others can easily see this behavior.
· Feel unusually tired or as if you have no energy.
· Feel unworthy or guilty. You may have low self-esteem and worry that people don’t like you.
· Find it hard to focus, remember things, or make decisions. You may feel anxious or worried about things.
Our therapists have the experience of working with mothers who have struggled with these problems. We know that often, the longer you wait to get treatment, the worse the symptoms get and the greater the danger for the mother and their family.
Two especially serious symptoms of depression are thinking about death and suicide and having psychotic experiences. Some women with postpartum depression have fleeting, frightening thoughts of harming their babies. There are also times when women may hear voices telling them to do things, when there is no one there or seeing things that no one else can see. In situations where the woman is thinking about suicide, harming their children, or seeming to become disconnected from reality, it is imperative that professional help is sought out immediately. These represent psychiatric emergencies and are not managed casually. At that point, the children need to be made safe and the mother needs to get help.
In most cases, when the mother gets help early, postpartum depression can be treated effectively. Our therapists provide individual therapy, can coordinate care with internists and psychiatrists (as needed), and offer group therapies that can be particularly powerful in helping the depressed mother realize that she is not alone, and she can be empowered to feel better about being a mother, and her life in general.
Relationships are tough before children get involved. No two relationships are the same and there is no clear right or wrong way to “do it”. But, when a couple has a child, the unforeseen stressors can impact the happiest of unions. Sleep deprivation is the norm. Self-care falls to the wayside. And that beautiful ball of joy will sap every ounce of energy from you. No matter how well you prepare, it will be different from what you expected. And your well-intended parents and friends will be ever-ready to offer you advice on what to do to soothe your child and raise them right; regardless of whether the advice is the exact opposite of how they raised you or has the ultimate message communicated to you, “You don’t know anything and shouldn’t be trusted with raising a child”. They mean well…usually…but it can leave new parents feeling scrutinized and confused. Couples need to adjust. They need to be sensitive to each other’s needs. Find a routine that maximizes each person’s opportunity to rest. Strike a balance, with division of labor, so that each parent’s strengths are utilized to help the other’s. But walking around like zombies, defeated by their child’s demands, sometimes, parents need a hand in wrapping their heads around all of this new parenthood business; and sometimes a therapist can help.