New moms are regularly “screened” in healthcare settings for signs of anxiety and depression after birth. But, there are plenty of good reasons to think more preventatively about these sorts of problems, and get help before they occur. Here are some reasons you might want to seek out counseling before or during pregnancy to minimize the chance of postpartum mood or anxiety issues:
- You just can’t decide whether being a parent is right for you.Some people know right away that they want to have children, and others don’t. Maybe you struggle with the way you were parented as a child, and wonder if you can do it differently. Maybe you’re not sure whether you want your current life to change in significant ways. Sometimes these decisions can just wait – but consider counseling if you are running out of time to make the choice and need to set aside some time to really consider how you feel about the options.
- You have previously struggled with eating issues and/or have been officially diagnosed with an eating disorder. Fears of gaining weight can make pregnancy scary for many women, but eating well is important for good health outcomes for mom and baby. If the thought of gaining weight makes you want to avoid pregnancy, despite a desire to start a family, counseling can help.
- You have a history of recurrent depressive episodes. Even if you are feeling well now, pregnancy and parenting can bring up new concerns and trigger old patterns. It is important to know what sorts of things tend to trigger relapses for you, and make a plan for preventing and coping with these things before they occur. Mood struggles are not inevitable.
- You have a high-risk pregnancy. 9 months is a long time to cope with fears of how you and your baby are doing. Counseling can provide a place to discuss fears without the automatic reassurances of “it will be fine!” You will also learn skills for managing the anxiety that comes when things are not certain to be “fine.”
By: Valerie Domenici PhD, Licensed Psychologist