The perinatal period (during pregnancy or after birth) is a time of much change and transition. It is very normal for new mothers and fathers to experience times of feeling down, stressed or anxious as they adjust to their new role. In some cases however symptoms of depression and anxiety become so intense that they interfere with your ability to function on a daily basis. This can negatively impact your view of yourself as a parent, place strain upon your relationship with your partner and interfere with your ability to really enjoy and engage with your child.
Research suggests that up to 1 in 7 new mothers and 1 in 10 fathers experience depression in the perinatal period and these figures are likely similar for those experiencing anxiety (Source: Post and Antenatal Depression Association). Despite how often parents experience anxiety or depression in the perinatal period, many struggle to talk to others about what they are experiencing and may feel a sense of guilt or shame about accessing help.
The way that we talk to ourselves about what is going on and how we are coping has a big impact on our mood. Imagine being continually criticised and given messages like “You can’t cope, you’re useless, you’re a failure,” and yet this is exactly how some of us speak to ourselves. It is little wonder that at times we become anxious or depressed. Parents who are experiencing anxiety or depression often become stuck in ways of behaving or thinking that actually increase or maintain their distress. It can take time to shift patterns such as these, particularly if they have been established earlier in life.
Developing realistic expectations and a more supportive and compassionate way of talking to yourself, can have a positive impact on your well being. At Psychology on Hay, our approach to assisting clients utilises up to date findings from the field of neuroscience, and integrates this with evidence based approaches to treatment in the perinatal period such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Interpersonal Psychotherapy. The therapist will work with you, so that rather than dismissing or becoming overwhelmed by your emotions, you will develop strategies to help regulate your mood and modify unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. Accessing treatment early, before patterns become firmly established is important.