serendipitypsychology

Perinatal Mental Health
& Birth Trauma

What is perinatal mental health & birth trauma?

Some of our team of therapists specialise in working with those living with anxiety, depression, distress, and trauma-related symptoms as a result of their experience of conception and the perinatal period. This may include experiences relating to:

  • Infertility & IVF
  • Miscarriage or pregnancy loss
  • Fear of giving birth
  • Admission to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
  • Difficult and intense emotions after birth
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and birth trauma
  • Postnatal depression 
  • Having additional children
 

Our therapists aim is to provide a safe space for you to explore the complex thoughts and feelings that arise from these experiences. We offer support to mothers, fathers, families, and couples and recognise that these experiences affect all members of the family in different ways. 

The narrative surrounding birth is that it’s supposed to be one of the happiest experiences of your life, but at least 1 in 4 of those who have babies experience some parts of their birth as traumatic; it’s thought that a further 1 in 25 women of this group may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While the research in this area isn’t as established as it needs to be, we are increasingly aware that fathers encounter PTSD and postnatal depression too. For numerous reasons, fathers often don’t feel as able to express their feelings or reach out to ask for help, particularly when they are supporting a partner who is also struggling.

We are aware that the process of becoming a parent can bring great joy but it also encompasses profound feelings of confusion, out of control feelings, and feeling of guilt, helplessness and fear. This can be from the stages of trying to conceive, throughout pregnancy, giving birth and the postnatal period after birth. ‘Perinatal mental health difficulties’ refers to issues which occur during pregnancy or during the first year following childbirth and applies to both men and women. Perinatal mental health difficulties impact up to 20% of mothers and fathers and can have long-term effects on both the parent and child if left untreated. 

 

What are some of the experiences you might be struggling with?

For some people, birth trauma can lead to experiences of PTSD. Some symptoms of PTSD include re-experiencing the traumatic events, avoiding anything associated with a traumatic event, and constantly feeling under threat. They may have thoughts or feelings about life that are intensely negative or even feelings of hopelessness, numbness and emptiness. It may be that you do not experience all of the symptoms of PTSD, but you still feel damaged by your pregnancy and birth experience. You may find that your emotions may be affecting you months or even years after giving birth. For many people who experience these sorts of difficulties and don’t seek help, they can be prevented from having further children or feel terrified about their next birth experience. For those who do go on to have another child, it inevitably increases the likelihood of the following experience also being complicated and difficult.

What you find traumatic cannot be dictated by other people. We at Serendipity Psychology understand that your experience is your experience and your feelings and thoughts surrounding your pregnancy and birth may need exploration and support.

 

What Kind of approaches might be helpful? 

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines suggest that women who experience perinatal mental health conditions should be supported with therapy thought to be helpful in working with perinatal issues. This might be cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), designed to help with the negative spiralling cycle of emotions, thinking and behaviour. More recent versions of CBT therapies, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Compassion-Focussed Therapy (CFT), can mean there are many different ways to support each individual’s specific needs. Another well-known type of therapy that can be helpful is EMDR which is a therapy for processing trauma. More information about these different types of therapy can be found under our ‘Specialist Therapies’ page: www.serendipitypsychology.co.uk/specialist-therapies/

 

Therapy for families that have spent time in NICU 

For most families who have spent time spent in the NICU, there are unexpected and traumatic outcomes. Our team have developed a passion for supporting parents who have been through the NICU. Whether you had your baby prematurely or your baby at full term and needed medical support in the first moments of your baby’s life, we recognise the experience stays with you and support is often not readily available. We would like to change that and offer support to help you and others to recognise the difficulties these experiences can cause.

 

Our belief…

We understand that the experience of attempting to conceive, being pregnant, giving birth and having a baby is profoundly life-altering. For many, it presents real conflict about the meaning of life, the trust and confidence we have in our bodies, and the lack of control we really have of our lives. Whether you are a preparing parent who is waiting with anticipation to have a baby, a grieving parent who has lost a pregnancy at any stage in the journey, a parent who has experienced trauma around your pregnancy or birth, or a parent who is struggling after birth, the Serendipity team want to support those who are struggling through the whole journey so that you feel as if your thoughts and feelings are heard and valid. You are not alone, and you do not have to do this alone.

 

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