Pregnancy and caring for a new infant can be accompanied by a sense of profound well-being and happiness. However, becoming pregnant and the prospect of being a new mother also bring a wealth of expected worries and concerns. These concerns can be exacerbated in women who have had experiences of early trauma, abuse, or significant loss, or are experiencing current domestic abuse.
If you have had experiences like these, you may, during your pregnancy:
- Have mood fluctuations that are difficult to understand
- Feel a high level of distress much of the time
- Have symptoms of PTSD (e.g., reexperiencing, hyperarousal, avoidance)
- Feel empty or cut off from yourself at times, or want to “numb out”
- Have difficulty controlling your anger
- Feel anxious much of the time
- Have difficulty concentrating and focusing
Have you wondered if your mood fluctuations, anxiety, or high stress levels can affect your health and your baby’s health during pregnancy?
You may also wonder if the way you were parented might affect how you will interact with your new baby. One of the most important influences on the developing relationship between a pregnant woman and her unborn infant, as well as between a new mother and her infant is the attachment relationship she had with her own caregivers and the mental images, or representations of those early relationships. These mental representations become strongly activated during pregnancy. If they were confusing, stressful or frightening they can sometimes interfere with a woman’s mental health during pregnancy, the care she provides her unborn infant, and the quality of the post-birth relationship.
These are very legitimate concerns, shared by many, and help is available.
A number of recent studies have shown that human psychological development may begin in utero. External influences during gestation such as a mother’s behavior and health choices and mental health can explain important aspects of an infant’s behavior and development over time, above and beyond genetics. Pregnant women with trauma histories may wonder how best to manage mood, anxiety, stress, and reminders of the trauma in a safe way.
Mental Health During Pregnancy
Depression and mood fluctuations, relatively common among people who have experienced interpersonal trauma can certainly become more pronounced during pregnancy. About 10%-20% of women have pre-partum depression;
My Approach- Trauma, Pregnancy, and Parenting
Unraveling the impact of trauma on pregnancy is complicated because of its far reaching effects. I would initially adopt a practical approach and do a multi-level assessment, and depending on the outcomes, propose a program of intervention.