Perinatal Anxiety and Mood Disorders Can Affect Anyone
It can feel painful and isolating to struggle emotionally during one of the most exhilarating times in our lives- having a baby. If you struggled with infertility for years, needed medical intervention to get pregnant, or experienced pregnancy loss, it can feel utterly confusing to feel anything, but bliss once you finally birth a baby!
Yet, the statistics for postpartum anxiety and depression (PPA/PPD) do not discriminate. Did you know that…
- Up to 80% of new moms experience the “baby blues”?
- 1 in 5 or 20% of new moms experience postpartum anxiety and/or depression?
- Up to 10% of new moms experience postpartum panic disorder?
- Fewer, but still a significant percentage of moms also experience postpartum PTSD or OCD?
- And although only a small percentage of moms experience postpartum psychosis, the repercussions of a lack of treatment are devastating (including suicide or infanticide).
To determine if you have one of the above conditions, it is most important to see a medical provider or counselor who specializes in perinatal mood disorders who can provide a comprehensive assessment. You can also look at these symptom checklists (on Postpartum Support International’s website: postpartum.net) to do an informal assessment:
The above mental health conditions do not just get better in time. They can last years for some moms and rob you of your joy of this once in a lifetime experience with your baby!
When moms postpone treatment, there are also ADVERSE effects to your baby:
- Premature birth weight, blood vessel constriction, & higher cortisol levels (If PPD or PPA during pregnancy)
- Poor weight gain, sleep problems, social, motor, and cognitive skill delays, behavioral problems, and poor attachment (If PPD or PPA after the baby is born)
I understand your struggle personally and professionally.
During the first 4 weeks of my son’s life, I experienced a severe case of the Baby Blues that almost developed into postpartum depression and anxiety. I sought help EARLY with individual therapy, a support group called “Survival for New Moms”, yoga, and asked my husband to help me at a level that I had never needed prior to becoming a parent. I also began forming a new mom friend group that was like a life line to laugh with and enjoy adult conversation and company during my son’s extremely difficult first year. See, my son barely slept for an entire year due to digestion issues, cried a lot, and required heroic patience and efforts on our parts to help him get to sleep. I still experienced the most powerful love for my son, but I couldn’t deny it was a trying year.
Simultaneously, I began reading everything I could on postpartum depression and anxiety and started presenting on prevention and intervention strategies for expecting moms when my son was just 9 months old. I now am a regular presenter on the topic of “Postpartum Mood Disorders and Emotional Wellness in Motherhood” at a group called “Connecting New Mamas” for mothers of newborn babies to 1 year old.
Here’s the great news~ ALL of the conditions above are highly treatable with research-based therapies, and in some cases medication.
Fortunately, some medications are even safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Individual Counseling Can Alleviate Symptoms of Postpartum Mental Health Issues, and Help You Find Yourself Again
In our individual sessions, you will have a safe, non-judgmental space to express all of your feelings and thoughts. You can process whatever you’re struggling with as a mom and in other areas of your life, ex. your marriage or life as a single (“rockstar”) mom, as a daughter, career woman, etc. You choose the focus of your sessions and your goals, and my role is to collaborate with you in supporting you in reaching your goals.
I provide talk therapy incorporating mindfulness, relaxation, and other techniques to help you connect with your intuitive wisdom, including creative therapies such as sandtray, art therapy, and psychodrama. My promise to clients is to always keep it real- sometimes this involves laughing at myself and other times I’ll share tears with you. One of my strengths as a therapist is my genuineness and willingness to share (when appropriate) parts of my life so you can have an experience in therapy that feels authentic.
Your strengths, gifts, and accomplishments will be honored, in addition to the struggles you’re bringing to therapy. I give new moms a “Well Mama Checklist” at their first session so you can remember to daily celebrate all of the things you’re doing well! When we’re going through a difficult time, we often minimize, dismiss or even forget to acknowledge the positive things we’re doing.
You will also receive information about perinatal mood disorders (symptoms, causes, and evidenced-based treatment options) or other areas that we determine together are areas of struggle and/or goals you choose. Knowledge is power, and you deserve to receive factual information about your condition, research-based treatment options, and other empowering resources for mamas that I’ve found have helped other clients and even myself. Some of these resources might be support or social groups for new moms, doctors/psychiatrists who specialize in new moms, and on-line resources when you just can’t get out of the house!
Finally, I will help you expand your self-help coping toolbox so you can more effectively cope outside of sessions with some of the drastic changes in mood that often accompany the normal hormonal changes and other struggles (ex. lack of sleep) that new moms experience. Part of your “toolbox” is your community of people who see the best in you and empower you to keep going especially when the going gets tough. I will support you in identifying who these key people are and how you can best utilize their support.
Other Common Issues & Solutions in Motherhood
New moms (if they’re the primary caretaker) have a new role they are trying to navigate, and there’s a steep learning curve.
Moms have A LOT of pressure in our culture to either stay at home or work outside the home full-time. And then there are ALL of the other parenting and life decisions to make of which everyone seems to have an opinion! It can be hard at times to feel like you’re doing the “right” thing. Some moms feel like they can’t do anything “good enough” to meet the “social media standard” (ex. the child’s birthday party with all of the DIY themed decorations) or they feel guilty for their choice to be a SAHM or to work outside their home.
The good news is that there isn’t just one right way to do anything in parenthood! In our individual therapy sessions, I can help you embrace the lifestyle choices that work for you and celebrate your strengths since these are the areas in which you will shine and influence your child to do the same. I can engage you in exercises that will help you connect with your heart, head, and most of all the wisdom of your intuition, (and your partner if s/he attends a session), in making decisions for your family that suit you.
Extended family drama tends to boil to the surface after a baby is born.
If you picture a pot on the stove simmering, but not really bothering anyone until a life cycle event causes the water to overflow and finally require the attention of family members. This is the dynamic I tend to see with new parents and their extended family. If you and/or your spouse are struggling with any of these dynamics (ex. not knowing how to set boundaries with grandparents or other relatives regarding your baby, repeated conflicts during the holidays, hurtful comments by a mother-in-law, etc.), you may consider scheduling a private couples therapy session or attending my next “Keeping the Spark Alive” workshop for parents of young children. In my workshop, I include information and effective strategies for how couples can have each other’s backs and still have a bond with their family of origin.
New parents often experience increased conflict and disconnection after having a baby.
In spite of couples celebrating one of the BEST moments in their entire lives- the birth of your child, having children (especially when they’re young and in need of almost 24-7 care), is a HUGE adjustment. The first challenge is that husbands (or wives who didn’t birth the baby) feel left behind as they watch the metamorphosis in the new mother. According to John Gottman, prolific couples researcher, the spouse that didn’t birth the baby must follow the mother into the new realm she’s entered in order for your marriage to grow. Secondly, many new parents feel disconnected because they lose sight of the importance of continuing to carve out “couple” time. If you’ve stopped having this special time alone with your spouse or all of your alone time with your spouse is spent on tasks versus incorporating fun and romance, your marital relationship can gradually slip away.
This is why I created “Keeping the Spark Alive”, a workshop for parents of young children. Help reset and reinvest in your legacy to your child- a model for a healthy, fulfilling, and passionate intimate relationship.
Mothers in transition may feel lost as they’re searching for new meaning
For mothers at a crossroads with their career and identity due to their children transitioning to kindergarten, full day K-12 school, or leaving home as young adults, I can support you to honor, process and grieve the life cycle stage you just experienced & mastered, and help you “launch” too by reconnecting with your goals and dreams.
When my son began Kindergarten, I was not expecting to feel any sense of loss. I was anticipating feeling pride and joy for my son and gratitude for finally not feeling pulled in two different directions and being able to move my career forward… until my son’s actual first day of Kindergarten. I wrote a poem about my unexpected painful and eventual positive growth experience called “Through the Yellow Door; A Mother’s Journey to Kindergarten“.
As a parent of a teen or young adult, it can be very challenging to experience your child pulling away from you or constantly “power struggling” with you as s/he is going through this normal developmental phase of “individuating”. We can brainstorm healthy ways you can cope and fill your life with meaning until and beyond when your young adult is ready to reconnect with you. For more information about my services with youth, see “Parenting Teens and Young Adults“.
I am considering individual therapy, but I still have a few concerns/questions…
If I honestly share with you my struggles, would my baby or children be taken away from me?
Even in cases of child abuse and neglect (lack of food, water, clothing, shelter, and safety), counselors and social services agencies strive to do everything we can to keep children TOGETHER with their parents by providing you with the supports and education you need to get well and take care of your children to the best of your ability.
And by attending a therapy session, you would be showing your commitment to being the healthiest parent you could be for your children and to your own emotional well-being.
The only exceptions I am aware of are cases of repeated abuse and neglect after a parent has been offered all of the supports and education social services can provide, and temporarily in cases of of postpartum psychosis because until a mom is stabilized, she can be a threat to herself or others.
Will you recommend I be hospitalized or take medication?
Psychiatric hospitalization is only necessary in an extremely small number of cases of postpartum disorders, specifically postpartum psychosis which only affects 1-2 out of 1,000 women. Hospitalization can save lives in this case because psychosis requires medication and supervision until an individual is stabilized.
I tend to recommend a range of treatment options to moms, in addition to medication (if medication is warranted based on a doctor’s or my assessment) because there truly are so many different healing modalities and coping skills that are effective. There are certain conditions though (ex. OCD) in which medication has proven to be the most effective intervention. In these cases, I would recommend medication (because it is my responsibility to inform clients of the most effective treatment options), but not require medication. In general, I believe in empowering my clients to find what works for them. For example, one client might find that hiking with a mama group uplifts her mood by being out in nature, getting exercise, and having great conversations with other moms while another client might instead find that she feels more comfortable meeting with other moms one on one for a play date at her home.
I’m not sure how I can manage the logistics- Do I need to arrange for childcare coverage? Also, I’m worried about the cost?
You do not need to find childcare coverage as you are welcome to bring your baby to my office. I have had many moms (& couples) throughout the years bring their baby to their session and still have a productive session. I have had moms breastfeed their baby and change their baby’s diaper in my office. As a mom myself, I completely support you to bring your baby if you wish to or cannot get childcare coverage. (I love seeing babies as well 🙂 The only contraindication for doing so would be in the case in which you weren’t able to focus on your therapy or your spouse.
I believe that a mother’s emotional well-being is one of the most important qualities of excellent parenting, a positive quality of life, and in some cases has a HUGE impact on their children’s emotional well-being and other areas of development. Yet, we still live in a culture that tells mothers to sacrifice themselves or put their needs last on their family’s list of priorities. I also know that new families often feel stressed financially if one parent is working outside the home earning a salary and the other is equally working by taking care of the children (but not earning a salary.)
Thus, I understand if it is difficult for you to decide whether or not you should invest in therapy. Contact me to discuss my fee and if my fee is too high, I have a large network of colleagues (some of whom are on insurance and EAP panels) to whom I can refer you. I also am happy to give you a monthly receipt that you can submit to your insurance company for an out of network reimbursement rate. Finally, some of my clients meet with me every other week and on the “off” weeks attend one or more support groups for moms or a different community support group that fits their needs and engage in other coping skills that alleviate their symptoms of postpartum mood or anxiety disorders.
Are you interested in individual or couples therapy for parents, and think we might be a good fit?
Simply schedule your free individual 20 minute phone consultation or a free couples 30 minute in person consultation on my on-line calendar, call Lana Isaacson, LCSW, CAC III, Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy at 720.432.5262, or email me: [email protected] with any questions.
You can also check out a one of a kind and super affordable workshop for parents called “Keeping the Spark Alive“.