Pregnancy is a magical experience for many women. However, we tend to pay a lot of attention to physical side of pregnancy and forget the mental side. Understanding prenatal psychology is actually crucial. This is an area of psychology that looks at the psychological changes that women go through from conception to postpartum.
Even though pregnancy is an amazing experience, mothers may feel alone and unprepared, anxious and very stressed. On top of this, a troubled home environment or traumatic labor can lead to postpartum depression. Prenatal psychology came about to prevent and improve situations like these. It gives women direction on how to manage difficult situations and be healthy — both mother and child.
However, that’s not all that prenatal psychology has for mothers. It also provides tools and mental strategies for building a healthy bond with their baby and making their life happier and healthier.
Concerns and fears during pregnancy and motherhood
Mothers face a whole slew of fears when a baby is on the way. “Will everything be okay? What if we see something is wrong on the ultrasound? The doctor made a strange face, are they hiding something from me?”.
Motherhood is a radical change; of course it comes along with fear, insecurity, and stress. There is so much that could go wrong: preterm birth, an especially traumatic birth, problems breastfeeding, problems bonding with the baby, miscarriage, problems conceiving…
Prenatal psychology also includes the family
We talked about prenatal psychology as it relates to the mother. But we also have to include the other parent and the family. They are also fundamental and have an important role to play. They will need to be open and receptive to learning new support strategies.
The mother is center. Pregnancy obviously affects her more than any one else because of the physical changes she goes through. There are also the hormonal and emotional changes, and prenatal psychology has a lot to say about it. So, how does it help?
Prenatal psychology helps…
- Before conception: maybe a couple is having trouble conceiving and now have to consider fertility treatments. This comes along with a huge amount of pressure and stress. Prenatal psychology works on a couple’s beliefs about having children if it turns out that pregnancy is not an option. It can also help potential parents deal with things from their past, like an abortion or miscarriage.
- During pregnancy: first-time mothers may very well be scared of giving birth. After all, they’ve never done it before. They are also learning for the first time about the physical and psychological changes of pregnancy. Anxiety is a common response and an area where prenatal psychology can help. It can calm a mother’s nerves with things like relaxation and breathing techniques, and tools for managing her fear and stress.
- After birth: childbirth can be traumatic if the baby wasn’t in the right position, if medical staff had to use forceps, or if a C-section had to be performed after trying for a natural birth. In this case, psychological support will be vital to keep postpartum depression away and help mother and child bond well.
- For the family: the arrival of a baby will change a mother’s life — but also the lives of her partner and the whole family. Adapting to this change is not always easy. Prenatal psychology offers tools and guidelines for both the parents and the family to help them handle it all and adapt to their new reality.
Prenatal psychology can help a mother bond with her baby in a healthy way. The bond starts forming early, while the baby is still in the mother’s womb. From then on, a special relationship develops and solidifies the moment the baby is first placed in their mother’s arms.
There may be problems with breastfeeding or providing for the baby, especially if the mother has postpartum depression. Being in contact with the baby is extremely important, as well as identifying and satisfying the baby’s needs.
Prenatal psychology teaches the mother to relate to her child with affection, which is the foundation of a secure attachment. Secure attachment is always the goal.
Prenatal psychology has a lot to offer in every stage of pregnancy, even through the entire postpartum period too. The goal is a happy, healthy baby and a happy, healthy mother — and most of all a good attachment.