What is Perinatal Counseling?
Perinatal mental health refers to a woman’s emotional health during her pregnancy and postpartum period. Perinatal counseling is focused on supporting women (and couples) through their journey into parenthood. Pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting bring significant change, stress, and worry to life even when all goes to plan. While it can be a beautiful and exciting time, the changes you experience can also bring feelings of sadness, anxiety, fear, guilt, failure, uncertainty, and darkness. For women experiencing infertility, pregnancy complications, perinatal loss, or a NICU admission, these feelings can become even more complex and challenging to manage on your own.
Perinatal counseling provides emotional support and treatment for women (and couples) struggling with pregnancy and parenting adjustment, a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (such as perinatal depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress syndrome), or grief related to infertility or perinatal loss.
If you are experiencing any of the following, perinatal counseling can help you.
- feeling inadequate, as though you are not good enough
- feelings of guilt, shame, or regret
- loss of interest, joy, or pleasure
- desire to escape
- feelings of anger, irritability, sadness, or hopelessness
- scary thoughts or images related to your baby
- fear of being alone with your baby
- racing thoughts or difficulty concentrating
What is a Perinatal Therapist?
When seeking perinatal counseling, it is important to find a provider with advanced understanding and training in perinatal mental health as this will assure you are appropriately screened and treated using the best evidence-based treatments. Women experiencing a perinatal mood disorder have unique needs and risks that can be misunderstood by those without specialized training. For example, feeling ambivalent about your baby or having scary thoughts or images related to your baby may be misinterpreted as thoughts of harming your baby. A trained perinatal therapist will recognize these feelings and thoughts as a symptom of Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, will understand that you have no desire or intention of harming your baby, and will provide the necessary treatment to overcome these thoughts. Perinatal therapists can also connect you to additional supports such as mom’s groups, psychiatrists, lactation consultants, and perinatal programs specifically designed for your needs.
How to Find a Perinatal Therapist
1. Look for a therapist with advanced training in perinatal issues.
- Trained perinatal therapists will hold a special Perinatal Mental Health Certification (PMH-C). To become certified, a therapist must: have a minimum of 2 years of experience, complete 14 hours of continuing education in maternal mental health, participate in an intensive 6-hour training, and pass a rigorous exam.
- A therapist should also be either a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), or Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).
- Check Postpartum Support International to find a trained perinatal therapist near you at https://psidirectory.com/
2. Check availability and accessibility.
- A perinatal therapist should offer availability that meets a pregnant or postpartum mom’s unique schedule.
- Video appointments should be offered and are an excellent option for newly postpartum moms or women experiencing a complicated pregnancy.
- Many perinatal therapists allow you to bring your baby to your appointment if childcare is unavailable.
3. Assure a good fit
- Search for a therapist who offers a complimentary consultation. This will allow you an opportunity to ask questions before getting started and to determine if you feel safe and comfortable opening up and expressing your vulnerabilities.
- A strong therapeutic alliance is proven to be most beneficial to the success of therapy.
- Discuss fees and insurance questions. You might begin your search through your insurance company only to find that in-network therapists are difficult to reach, have long waitlists, and do not have advanced training in perinatal mental health. Many perinatal therapists do not accept insurance but can get you scheduled quickly. They may also offer a sliding scale fee or provide a superbill for you to submit to your insurance for out of network reimbursement.
It is important to know and understand that your challenging thoughts and feelings are temporary and treatable. Help is available for you!