The perinatal period (fertility through the first year of life) is one of great change whether you’re a single parent, newlywed, have been partnered for years, or have other children. No matter how you attempt to become a parent – biological or adoptive – babies deconstruct families and rebuild them afresh. Becoming to a parent of another human comes with thoughts and feelings that vary as much as each person.
Common uncomfortable feelings include sadness and grief over losing your previous life and changes in your partner relationship, disconnection and disinterest in your baby, anxiety and overwhelm around caring for a young infant, pressure to “do it right” and guilt around choices you make in parenting. Fertility issues can bring deep sadness, rage, envy, and excessive worry about protecting your chances for baby. In addition, traumatic birth experiences or pregnancy loss can be difficult to process.
You are not alone.
Prenatal and postpartum depression and anxiety affect 1 in 5 individuals who give birth, making mental health the most common concern of pregnancy and childbirth. Moreover, 1 in 8 women (or AFAB – assigned females as birth) experiences infertility, and secondary infertility can also emerge.
More than 30% of women describe their birthing experiences as traumatic. In addition to trauma occurring in the labor and delivery suite, traumatizing and similarly disruptive incidents can occur in the effort to become pregnant (infertility treatment, surrogacy, the adoption process), during the course of pregnancy itself (high-risk pregnancy, bedrest, adverse prenatal diagnosis, premature delivery, pregnancy/fetal complications, antepartum mood and anxiety or psychosis), or complications in the newborn period (NICU care for the newborn or medical complications in the mother including postpartum mood and anxiety disorders – PMADs – or psychosis). Because these events are common, commonly stigmatized, and rarely life-threatening, women often minimize their impact, and family members and physicians may not recognize their repercussions, making them potentially challenging to clinically detect.
To your journey, you bring your own experiences from childhood to parenting. Even in the same partnership, individuals have their own journeys to process. And new-baby exhaustion complicates the struggle. Therapy during pregnancy and after birth or adoption can help reduce your risk of depression and anxiety, and process grief around your journey to and through parenthood. By discussing your history of being parented, your expectations of becoming a parent, and current support network and coping skills, we can work together to address how to move forward. With specialized training in perinatal mental health, infertility, birth trauma and loss, and general parenting concerns, coupled with your bravery in asking for help, we can work together to build support for your journey.