Therapy is an incredible opportunity to empower yourself—and not just when you’re in crisis. Like a daily workout routine for physical health, regular counseling sessions keep your mental health primed and in shape. They strengthen you and provide a trove of healthy tools and strategies you can confidently turn to when more challenging life cycles and seasons arise (as they inevitably do).
For many women, one such season is pregnancy. Though pregnancy is often portrayed as the pinnacle of womanliness—a time to glow and overflow with the anticipated joy of motherhood—that’s not always the case. Far from it, in fact. Did you know that as many as 1 in 5 women experience mental health problems during pregnancy? And sadly, a sense of guilt or shame often accompanies and compounds such issues.
Even for women who experience “easy” pregnancies, the perinatal period inevitably involves unprecedented physical, mental, and emotional shifts.
Seeing a therapist is a smart and responsible way to proactively mitigate the stresses and challenges associated with pregnancy. Stress during pregnancy can increase the chances of premature birth or low birth weight, while emotional stability and resiliency benefit both mother and child.
So, what should you discuss with your therapist during pregnancy? While every situation is unique and every counseling session personal, you may find it helpful to contextualize your pregnancy by framing it holistically as part of your life journey instead of as an isolated experience. In the following three sections, we’ll explore some possible pregnancy triggers and touchpoints that may involve issues and concerns from your past, present, and future.
Being pregnant can bring up a lot of unexpected and unresolved issues from the past. Childhood traumas can play into feelings of inadequacy or fears about your ability to be a good parent. Delving back into your own childhood experiences can help inform your vision of the future parent you hope to be and tease out the emotional blocks that you feel might be holding you back from reaching your goals.
Unaddressed or unresolved issues with your partner can also resurface during pregnancy, adding another dimension of stress. This is a perfect time to ground yourselves as a couple and resolve conflicts that may only intensify once the baby is born.
- Childhood traumas
- Feelings of inadequacy or the inability to be a good parent
- Unaddressed or unresolved issues with your partner
The day-to-day realities of pregnancy can sometimes feel exhausting and overwhelming in and of themselves. You may appreciate some dedicated processing time to help you navigate all the new feelings and experiences.
Many women experience stress, anxiety, and/or depression during pregnancy. Women with a history of such issues may find that they intensify during the prenatal period, while others may be taken off guard to experience these types of feelings for the first time in their lives. A therapist can provide support with proven strategies, techniques, and tools that you can take forward with you into motherhood as well.
Other challenging realities during pregnancy can stem from many origins. Unexpected health issues can add worry and financial stress, especially if time off work is required. Often, relationship struggles come into play. Single mothers may feel alone and unsupported while couples may realize that they aren’t on the same page. One partner may have more reservations about the pregnancy than the other or there may be conflicting opinions about the pregnancy outcome itself. Women may experience confusing feelings around unplanned or unexpected pregnancies and grapple with the realities of a changing body. Even doctors and other health care professionals can be a source of tension if you feel unheard or that your voice is being discounted.
- Stress, anxiety, and depression
- Relationship struggles
- Changing body
- Confusing feelings
- Health issues
- Challenges with medical professionals
As you look ahead at the realities to come, future concerns can also be important to explore with your therapist. Many questions may arise. How will you develop your parenting skills as you adjust to motherhood? How will you cope with a child (or multiple children) 24/7? How will becoming a mother impact your career and friendships?
Becoming a parent marks a massive identity shift, and it’s common to feel apprehensive and uncertain—even if you feel like you shouldn’t. Fears about giving birth, financial stability, and new relationship dynamics are completely normal, and discussing them with your therapist can empower you to address them in healthy and proactive ways.
- Developing parenting skills
- Full-time parenting of multiple children
- Financial concerns
- Shifting identity
- Career concerns
- Relationship dynamics
- Fears around giving birth
Far from being a sign of weakness, seeking counseling throughout pregnancy is one of the most powerful ways you can support yourself and your future child. And, no matter your circumstances, there are always avenues for accessing the services you require. Pregnancy clinics in major cities often provide free care options for pregnant women, including mental health services. Of course, private health services are also an option—like One Life, that has therapists in Calgary.
In addition to counseling during pregnancy, take time to make a plan for continued support after the baby arrives as well. Like physical health, mental health requires continual maintenance and effort—and pregnancy is only one piece of a long journey. Two-thirds of mothers diagnosed with severe postpartum depression begin experiencing changes in mood during pregnancy, so continued awareness and vigilance, along with a strong support network, are critical.
Ultimately, pregnancy is a season of your life that intertwines your past, present, and future in complex and sometimes unexpected ways. By approaching pregnancy with a trusted therapist by your side, you take responsibility for nurturing the brightest outcomes possible for both yourself and your baby.
Also Read: Pain in the Tailbone during Pregnancy