A Guide to Perinatal Mental Health Counselling

The perinatal period—encompassing pregnancy and the first year following childbirth—can be challenging not only physically but also emotionally and psychologically.

Understanding the mental health struggles that can occur during this time and recognising the support available when seeking help is important for new parents.

This blog aims to explore perinatal mental health issues, guiding you through recognising symptoms, understanding their causes, and finding the right support through counselling.

Understanding Perinatal Mental Health

Traditionally perinatal mental health refers to a mother’s mental health during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

However, it can also include your fertility journey and the mental well -being of your partner during this time.  While this can be a joyful time, many parents can experience troubling symptoms and sometimes significant psychological challenges.

Common issues include perinatal depression (pre and postnatal), anxiety, and less frequently, postpartum psychosis. Studies suggest that up to 27% of women experience mood or anxiety disorders during this period.

Signs and Symptoms to Watch For

The signs of perinatal mental health issues vary significantly among women.

However, the main symptoms to be aware of include persistent sadness and tearfulness, that occur beyond the first 10 days postpartum (traditionally called the baby blues as hormones settle), feelings of hopelessness and not feeling able to cope, and excessive worry.

Physically, women may experience changes in appetite or sleep patterns (outside of the impact of a new born), decreased energy, and reduced interest in activities they once enjoyed.

Emotionally, new mothers/parents might feel overly irritable or numb, overwhelmed, perhaps struggling to form a bond with their baby, or feeling excessively fearful about the well-being of the baby.

Causes and Risk Factors

The causes of perinatal mental health issues are multifaceted.

Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy can significantly affect mood, compounded by sleep deprivation and the physical recovery from childbirth.

Other risk factors include a history of mental health issues, especially if there were signs of anxiety and or depression during the pregnancy, any trauma during delivery, or in previous pregnancies. Inadequate support systems can impact perinatal mental health, and this was particularly prevalent during and in the period after Covid.  

Other risk factors include relationship stress, and significant life changes, such as a bereavement during pregnancy.  By identifying these early on and seeking professional help, it’s possible to make a positive shift in over-all mental well-being.

The Role of Perinatal Mental Health Counselling

Perinatal mental health counselling is a specialised field aimed at supporting women and their partners to manage mental health challenges associated with this perinatal period. Counsellors use various therapeutic approaches to address these unique needs.

Coping strategies and tools are key to helping with parental emotional regulation.

Various techniques can be used to address any perinatal trauma that has been experienced, including the 3 Step Rewind approach which is a gentle NLP (neuro linguistic programming) technique aimed at helping parents overcome perinatal trauma or traumatic birth experiences.

Finding the Right Counsellor

Choosing the right counsellor is key to effective therapy.

Look for experienced professionals who specialise in perinatal mental health and who have additional training and qualifications in this field as they will have a deeper understanding of the specific challenges related to pregnancy and postpartum issues.

When selecting a counsellor, consider their credentials, experience, and any client testimonials.

Take up any free initial meetings that are offered, so that you can gain a sense of whether this is someone you can work with going forward, It’s also essential to feel comfortable and connected with your counsellor, so don’t hesitate to meet with a few different therapists before making your choice.

Supporting Someone with Perinatal Mental Health Issues

Support from loved ones is vital. If someone you know is struggling, encourage them to seek counselling and offer to help with their research or accompany them to an appointment.

One of the biggest challenges to accessing counselling at this time is childcare, so offering to look after baby during counselling sessions will be hugely helpful.

Simple acts of kindness, like offering to babysit, bringing over meals, or just listening, can also make a significant difference.

Most importantly, validate their feelings and support their decisions regarding their mental health needs.

Resources and Tools

Numerous resources are available for those experiencing perinatal mental health issues or their loved ones. Organisations like the Maternal Mental health Alliance provide tools, information, and local support groups.

Additionally, many mental health apps are designed to help manage anxiety and depression, offering breathing and guided meditations and tracking mood and sleep.

Debbie Kelly Counselling

Addressing perinatal mental health is crucial, not just for the well-being of new mothers but for their families as well.

If you or someone you know is facing such challenges, remember that help is available and effective. With the right support it’s entirely possible to manage these issues successfully.

Taking the first step by talking about these experiences openly and seeking professional help is both brave and necessary.

Please consider sharing this post to spread awareness and encourage those who might be silently struggling to seek help.

Remember, prioritising mental health is a crucial part of parenting. You’re not alone, and support is closer than you might think.

For more information and resources, or to reach out for personal advice, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Debbie Kelly MSc is an experienced counsellor offering telephone and online counselling. She works with clients experiencing life challenges concerning anxiety, depression, work stress, grief and bereavement, relationship difficulties and miscarriage/pregnancy loss.