There are elements of becoming a parent that we easily talk about and share. The baby bump, the joy of holding a tiny baby in your arms, decorating the room, the baby shower, even preparing for late nights and cuddles. These are the wonderful and celebrated parts of becoming a parent. It forever changes us, in ways that give us hope, purpose and meaning.
And then there are the parts that aren’t so openly expressed. The emotions and impact when things don’t work the way we had hoped. Sometimes we shy away from sharing these conversations because we fear the pain they bring, we question our feelings or worry about how others will respond if we speak about them. Sometimes we might worry that negative thoughts and emotions somehow mean that we aren’t a ‘good’ parent or not doing things ‘right’. It can feel very lonely carrying these feelings.
In Canada, 1 in 7 women experience some form of mental health concern during the perinatal experience. 1 in 10 partners describe a negative impact on their mental health.(1) The journey to parenting can involve severe physical changes, procedures to prepare, produce and repair after birth that can involve emotional, cognitive and relational changes. Shifting identity to pre-birth and post-birth as well as the experience and relationship with your body are areas we may experience a range of emotions.
The most common perinatal mental health concerns in Wellington, Dufferin and Guelph were depression and anxiety which together accounted for over three-quarters of mental health concerns experienced by pregnant women.(2)
So what can be done to support individuals and families throughout their perinatal experiences?
Evidence shows that there is a strong link between physical and mental health, and health promoting behaviours have a great impact on adjusting to this transitional phase of life.
The acronym NESTS, stands for Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep, Time to Self and Social Supports. Strengthening these areas of our physical health supports positive mental health. During the perinatal period we are most vulnerable to changes and challenges in these areas, for example a greater need for nutrition while coping with heightened sensitivities and possible food aversions. Adequate sleep is key in recovering from physical and mental stressors yet is challenged by body discomfort and needs of a newborn. Supporting new parents with NESTS is essential during the perinatal experience.
The old saying is ‘It takes a village to raise a baby’. This holds true for children and parents alike. Parents are not only caring for a growing child, they are also managing emotions, managing relationships and developing their own identity around the specifics of their unique perinatal experience. Supportive connection with others help the family in all of these tasks.
Connecting with others can be through joining parenting groups, joining forums, leaning on supportive family and friends or speaking with an experienced health care provider. Building a supportive team can help you lighten the load while you adjust to this new chapter in your life.
The physical, mental, emotional and social changes during this period can be exhilarating. If you’ve been struggling with feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, or just difficult feelings then speaking to a trained perinatal mental health therapist can provide you with answers and strategies to manage moods, build confidence and process feelings in a safe, supportive atmosphere.
Remember, every perinatal experience is unique, and you are not alone!
Connect with Amy to learn more about how she may be able to support you.
Time for Action: A National Report 2021. Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative [cited 2023 Mar 18]. Available from: https://cpmhc.ca/report/
A Report on Mental Health in Wellington, Dufferin and Guelph.2016 [cited 2023 Mar 15] Available from: https://wdgpublichealth.ca/sites/default/files/file-attachments/report/hs_report_2016-report-on-mental-health-in-wdg-fullreport_access.pdf