7 BENEFITS OF PRENATAL COUNSELLING

PRENATAL COUNSELLING

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The movement of life inside you: there is no better feeling…

Pregnancy might be the most rewarding and joyous experience one can go through at the same time it can be very overwhelming. Whether the pregnancy is planned or unplanned it comes along with a host of anxieties. It can add new meaning and purpose to your life, and at the same time it can distress you and strain relationships. Lack of preparedness, knowledge and the right socio-emotional support can lead to stress, anxiety and depression due to which you might lose the joy of expecting and could also lead to further complications in child birth as well as the well being of the yet to be born child. You should take care of yourself in terms of a healthy life style which includes exercise, healthy diet, social support, positive thinking, and good consistent timely sleep. It is most important to prioritise yourself and learn to say no to people.

Pregnancy concerns from a psychological point of view:

• Basic emotional upheaval that may arise: Pregnancy is particularly difficult for the carrying mother as her body is going through a lot of changes in hormones, appearances, sleep patterns, morning sickness, unnecessary spotlight on her which leads to pressure, lack of privacy and optimum rest. She expects a lot of understanding from her partner that he might not be able to provide due to his own mental strain or lack of awareness. This could lead to feeling of loneliness and marital rifts. Partners, who have a connect on the arrangements and adjustments required due to the pregnancy and forthcoming childbirth, add a new purpose and meaning to their relationship. There is a renewed sense of excitement for the new facet of their intimate partnership. On the other hand couples who have ambivalence on the different aspects of the situation end up into deeper discords and lack of harmony prevails even after the birth of the child. Prenatal counselling can provide a neutral and supportive space in order to process your thoughts and emotions. Pregnancy can be overbearing hence counselling therapy can help mothers and their families manage their responsibilities, choices and emotions in a healthier way.

• Prenatal care and concerns: Preparation for childbirth has a lot of challenges. Arrangements at home to welcome the new born, parenting responsibilities, financial management, alteration of lifestyle, relationship adjustments, etc; can be overwhelming and as a consequence there could be negative emotional reactions. At the same time there are a lot of medical needs and nutritional tests one may have to go through. Couples might find it difficult to accept the transformation and new found change in priorities and allocation of resources. This might further lead to lack of support towards each other and subsequent relationship strain. Prenatal counselling would help couples accept the situation and understand each others’ needs better while building a solid foundation for their long time relationship. It helps them discard negativity, make healthy choices and regain control over their togetherness.

• Antenatal difficulties: Emotional difficulties during pregnancy is commonplace but you might find yourself unable to cope up with yours for more than a few days. In case a chat with your partner, family or friends does not help your emotions subside then you might need a counsellor’s support and guidance. Sometimes you might have feelings of guilt and shame for not being able to cope up with the expectations created by culture, society or family during pregnancy. It is important to process and cope with these feelings. You might also feel tearful for long periods of time. This feeling is also natural part of your hormones acting out but if this is coming in the way of your joy of pregnancy then you need to take care of yourself. There might also be feelings of emptiness as you might be distressed and end up shutting your thoughts as a result of the same. You need relaxation exercises and distressing. Further, you might also experience isolation as you do not feel like meeting people. This could lead to feelings of sadness and loneliness. At times you might experience sleepless and insomnia due to an overactive mind. If you are not able to develop coping skills and help yourself gain perspectives and alter your thought patterns which interfere with your mental and physical well being then do not shy away from taking help. You are not alone. Many others experience similar patterns. It is important to remain happy and healthy so that you do not develop post partum depression and this also has a positive effect on your child.

• Childbirth: Anxiety towards the end of pregnancy is quite natural, but for some of us it converts into phobia. In this case it is fruitful to have discussions with the medical professionals, while you know what could be the complications that can be expected at the worse and how they could be dealt with. Reading about the same and listening to your mothers, sisters or friends might be helpful as well. It is best to develop a coping strategy before birth to lessen your fears and ease your worries. But at the same time do not succumb to horrifying stories from media and others as what has happened to them does not need to happen to you. Learning relaxation exercises independently or with the help of your counsellor helps a lot regain control over your thoughts. Women experiencing traumatic births may feel isolated and dismissed when sharing their fearful or painful experiences. They need socio-emotional support to cope up and can feel hopeless about not finding people to share about what has been transpired. These types of experiences can result in extreme distress in the form of recurring images, flashbacks, and painful emotional memories of what transpired during their delivery. These reactions to the event need to be processed fully in order to heal.

“Pregnancy can add new meaning and purpose to your life, but at the same time, it may distress you and strain the relationship with your partner”

• Miscarriage or loss of child during birth: Loss of a child at any stage of pregnancy can have an emotionally devastating impact on the soon to be parents. To add to the above there would be physical recovery period followed by the loss, which would still heal quicker than the feelings and mental state that consume the couple and others involved. You may feel grief stricken, with a sense of loss, frightened, angry, sad, hopeless, empty guilty, shameful and insufficient. Sexual life could be held off in the fear of conceiving again. As a result intimacy and communication suffer. These feelings need to be healed in order to recover emotionally. Prenatal counselling provides a caring and compassionate alliance where you have a space to draw your personal meaning out of the sense of your loss. When there is a period of intense grief in one’s life the need for emotional and physical proximity strongly emerges. Prenatal counselling helps you recreate deeper couple bond while you mourn together and move ahead more fulfilled.

• Post-Partum Care: After you bring home your child there is a period of transition where you need to adjust to your new found life. There are many practical changes associated with sleeping and feeding patterns of your child apart from the other infant needs. There is very less amount of predictability in the first few months as far as a clear routine is concerned. As a result you are left with creating and adapting to a new life. In this period a lot of women feel emotional residues from the birth complications and also from the normal childbirth experience. They feel isolated and also might find it difficult to adjust to the change in self and identity. It is also a transition period for couples who might be experiencing a lot of distress individually and also in their relationship as lot of previous behaviour towards each other changes and one has to give away old comfortable habits. Counselling helps the mother and the couple adjust to these initial challenges and bring home the new born. It also helps you feel less isolated by encouraging you to reach out to the community. It plays an important role in your identification, expressing and understanding emotions, while you feel supported and come to terms with your real experience. It helps your couple support and care for each other through this phase of transition and co parent the new born while regaining choices over new found priorities.

• Decision to terminate a pregnancy: The decision to end pregnancy is sometimes taken due to many medical, personal or interpersonal reasons. It can create feelings of confusion, guilt, shame, grief and the natural anxiety in the process. It could also be difficult to deal with the pressure from some members of the family. Sometimes these feelings emerge only after the termination is done. The actual medical process can add to the already existing layers of emotional distress. This is a very complex situation and you might need a non judgemental alliance where you are heard and respected so that you can process your experience and cope with the loss and the emotions accompanying it.

Prenatal counselling helps you to be able to express your ideas and emotions during the pregnancy period and right after delivery. Counselling therapy further helps you explore pertinent questions like what are you ready to do to fulfil your wish of having a child. It helps you make the right choices for yourself, improve your social and marital life, build up intimacy and seek pleasure in your goal oriented sexual life, manage your anxieties while you are pregnant. If you are pregnant and feel that you could benefit from prenatal counselling, please feel free to ask me a question or book an appointment.

Richa Khetawat is a trained Clinical Psychologist providing online counselling services in a professionally helping manner to facilitate transitions in life. She has over 8 years of experience helping individuals cope with managing family and relationships issues, stress and anxiety, life transitions, children parenting and adolescent issues.