Here at Serendipity Psychology, some of our therapists specialise in working with those living with anxiety, depression, distress, and trauma-related symptoms as a result of their experience of conception and perinatal mental health difficulties, including pregnancy and birth trauma. This may include experiences relating to: infertility; miscarriage or pregnancy loss; fear of giving birth; admission to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or; difficult and intense emotions after birth such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or postnatal depression. Our aim is to provide a safe space for you to explore the complex thoughts and feelings that arise from these experiences. The team works in an integrative way, drawing on compassion-focused therapy (CFT), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), systemic therapy, and person-centred therapy. We offer support to mothers, fathers, families, and couples and recognise that these experiences affect all members of the family in different ways.
What is birth trauma & perinatal mental health?
The narrative surrounding birth is that it is supposed to be one of the happiest experiences of your life, but 1 in 4 of those who have babies experience some parts of our birth as traumatic; a further 1 in 25 women of this group will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While the research in this area isn’t as established as it needs to be, we are also increasingly aware that fathers encounter PTSD and postnatal depression too but for numerous reasons, they often don’t feel as able to express their feelings, particularly when they are supporting a partner who is also grieving.
To us, birth trauma is not just encompassed by the label of ‘post traumatic stress’, it also encompasses all of those moments where you feel out of control, helpless or afraid. 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. Issues can include post-natal depression, anxiety, psychosis, and PTSD.
What is birth trauma therapy & perinatal therapy?
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; a constant feeling os being under threat and; having 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 sort 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 next 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 are valid.
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) which is 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 individuals’ 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 of us, time spent in the NICU is unexpected and can be traumatic. One of our associate psychologists, Dr Frankie Harrison, working with Serendipity psychology has first-hand experience of this and has developed a passion for supporting other parents who have been through the NICU. Whether you had you baby prematurely, or whether you had your baby at full term and needed medical support in the first moments of your baby’s life, 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.
For more information on Frankie’s experience and the efforts she has gone to raise awareness of the trauma new parents in this position can face, see below:
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, here at Serendipity Psychology we 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.
We are currently offering sessions for birth trauma therapy, and perinatal therapy so please get in touch and we will be able to suggest what might be the best way to support you.