Postnatal Mental Health & Early Parenting Relationships
Life with a new baby can bring challenges and sometimes those challenges can push new mothers, fathers or partners down an unexpected and unwanted path to anxiety or depression.
In today’s world, so much attention is given to the physical demands and needs of pregnancy and there is a huge choice of books on shelves full of ideas and guidance on how to raise your baby once he or she is born, each with their own preferred method. There are many experts in these fields, but what I am concerned with is the mental health and emotional well-being of the new mother and any significant other in her life as they take on the role of parent.
Becoming a parent can be the most enjoyable and exciting thing in the world. The arrival of a new bundle of joy, however, always brings change, new responsibilities and the need to adapt and sometimes, in fact almost always, sleepless nights, fatigue and a feeling of total exhaustion. Life as you knew it will never be the same again. All this may be accompanied by tears and a rollercoaster of emotions commonly known as the ‘baby blues’, which, hopefully, settles down after a week or two. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all new parents.
It is not only the birth of a baby but the birth of a mother and the birth of a father or partner as parent. When this is a first child, this is the creation of a part of you that never existed before and there can be so much more to deal with than poor sleep patterns, changing nappies and breastfeeding. Being a parent is a new role, a new job – and it comes with a whole new set of skills and rules and, importantly, a whole new set of emotions, feelings, thoughts, worries, fears and anxieties.
For some, this change can be daunting and overwhelming and simply, sometimes, too much to cope with, resulting in, for example:
- a persistent feeling of sadness or low mood
- a loss of interest in your wider world
- a loss of feelings of pleasure or enjoyment
- constantly feeling tired and lacking energy
- a difficulty bonding with your baby
- isolating yourself and avoiding social contact
- issues with concentration and decision-making
The incidence of postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety (PPA) has been rising exponentially throughout the world in recent years and is believed to affect between 10% and 20% of new mothers. Not surprisingly, it would appear that the estimated figure is similar for new fathers/partners.
There is a growing awareness within the medical profession of how debilitating going through this can be but accurate media exposure is limited and social awareness has not yet fully caught up.
As a therapist with speciality training in this area, my goal is to help my clients to recognise and overcome these issues with appropriate support. I enhance psychotherapy with hypnosis to:
- Help parents adjust to their new lives with their baby
- Teach and encourage new parents to recognise unhelpful thoughts and overcome them
- Gain a sense of control in their lives
- Enable them to reassess their identity as an individual and as a partnership
- Review their life goals and their priorities
- Become ‘good enough’ parents, rather than succumbing to the pressure of striving for perfection
- Relax into their new role as parents, whilst also holding space for their individual needs, their needs as a couple and, of course, the needs of a new baby
It is important that women and men have the right support available to enable a smooth transition to parenthood so that they can enjoy the experience with their partner, any older children in the family and their new baby.
Although the focus of this section is on new mothers and fathers/partners, this approach and the learnings within, are also ideally suited to women still waiting to give birth. The antenatal period is a wonderful time to help parents to put in place a ‘parent mindset’, in the hope that by encouraging awareness and understanding through therapy and hypnosis, some of the pitfalls can be met head on and prevented, or recognised early and overcome more easily.