It is thought that 10-20% of new parents develop Postnatal Depression. Research has even found that between a third and a half of women start to develop PND in their pregnancies (this is sometimes referred to as antenatal depression). This highlights how common depression is during this time, so you’re not alone if you have been experiencing it.
Lots of parents struggle with the demands of pregnancy and/or having a baby. Below is a list of some of these.
Things New and Expectant Mums Might Struggle With:
- The tiredness, of either pregnancy, or not knowing if baby will sleep and when they will wake up postnatally
- The adjustment of having a new baby to look after who is entirely reliant on you for its every need
- The need for baby to be close to mum constantly for the first few months
- Establishing breastfeeding and accepting just how often baby needs to be at the breast in the early weeks and months
- Taking baby out, especially when their partner is back at work and mum must take her baby (and older children) with her with no other help
- Keeping up with the housework
- Maintaining an exercise regime
- Having time away from their baby’s
- Not having time away from their baby’s!
- The distance that can be created with their partner
- Worries about whether their partner still finds them attractive
- Resentment at their partner for “having a break” at work whilst mum is at home looking after the children all day
These struggles can be experienced at any point of your pregnancy and parenting journey, not just in the postnatal period (although this is what we tend to assume). However, if you are experiencing these struggles on more days that not for longer than two weeks, it may be a sign that you are experiencing PND yourself. To read more on how to differentiate between the Baby Blues & PND, read my blog on this exact topic, here.
So, how can CBT help you change unhelpful thoughts and behaviours?
CBT to Change Unhelpful Behaviours
CBT is a very practical, active therapy where we look at things you are doing that are helpful (such as going for a walk with your baby or meeting a friend for coffee and cake), and those things that perhaps aren’t so helpful (such as not going out at all, clock watching when trying to get to sleep, & excessively checking your baby that they are ok. Research tells us that the more unhelpful behaviours you engage in those unhelpful behaviours, the more likely you are to experience anxiety and/or depression.
When you’ve just had your baby, there is no pressure to get out the house every day and meet up with people. You need to rest and recover to heal physically and emotionally. Doing too much too soon can hinder that healing process. However, not doing much at all for many months after your baby's birth because of anxiety or lack of motivation will likely contribute to you feeling worse in the long run. You end up cooped up all day with your baby, your anxious mind, and your lack of drive to tackle the day.
CBT can help you gradually, and at your own pace, build in activities. Not just the boring, mundane baby stuff (let’s be honest the monotony can be soul destroying sometimes!), but also things you value and enjoy and that give you a sense of pleasure or satisfaction.
One of the things I love about working with mums is seeing the changes they make. It is so rewarding seeing them notice unhelpful patterns that they may have got stuck in and making meaningful changes to break their own vicious cycles. The result of their hard work tends to be improved mood and decreased anxiety levels.
CBT To Boost Your Mood
When you have a baby, your whole routine goes up in the air. Things should settle down eventually as you, your baby, and your family find a routine that suits you all. However, lots of parents can struggle getting the balance right. They end up doing too much of the mundane stuff and neglecting the very important "me time" activities.
The result of this is low mood and lack of enjoyment and satisfaction with life.
My Free Managing Mood Guide, which teaches you a simple yet highly effective CBT skill, can help you address this and boost your mood.
CBT to Manage Unhelpful Thoughts
Something the guide doesn’t cover, but that CBT sessions can, is addressing the “blocking thoughts” that can get in the way of you doing these activities that will boost your mood. These thoughts might sound like: “what’s the point in going out, I won’t enjoy myself and will just be pulling everyone else down,” or “if I go to the baby swimming class, I won’t cope if the baby doesn’t like the water, and everyone will be looking at me and judging me.”
CBT can help you test some of these thoughts and worries. The best way to test them is to go to the situation you are worried about and see what actually happens. You can then compare your experience to what you thought would happen. Doing this can help you learn how the world really works, rather than living your life in accordance with your anxious thoughts as if they are completely true.
CBT To Manage Expectations
Another helpful thing that CBT can address is the expectations you place upon yourself and to compare those with what other people typically do. We can do this by using what we call ‘surveys.’ This is a way of seeing what the consensus is about certain things and can be helpful for you to challenge some of your expectations about what is the “done thing,” when parenting.
I remember working with a mum who felt bad about the fact she didn’t cook all her baby’s food from scratch. She would also feel guilty if she didn’t go out with her baby every day. These expectations she had for herself were making her feel bad and keeping her stuck feeling low when she was unable to achieve them.
We devised a survey to ask other mums what they feed their babies of the same age and how often they go out with their baby. The consensus was that it didn’t matter what baby ate, as long as they ate something fairly healthy, and that most mums didn’t go out with their baby every day. This helped the mum in therapy see she was placing too much pressure on herself. Together, we worked on trying to lower those expectations slightly. Over time, my client felt less stressed and pressured and more relaxed about what her baby ate and how often she took him out.
Why have CBT with me?
I am passionate about helping new, existing, and expectant Mum’s to overcome their mental health difficulties and I'd love to support you. I am lucky enough that all my referrals in my private practice are from pregnant or postnatal Mums who are struggling in one way or another with anxiety and/or low mood, so I have lots of experience in this area. I’m dedicated to helping you feel better about yourself and your journey into motherhood.
Whether you’re thinking about having a baby, you’re trying for one, or you’re already pregnant or postnatal, CBT can be beneficial if you are experiencing symptoms of antenatal/postnatal depression. Once we know exactly what your situation is, we can put our heads together and figure out the best tools and strategies to use. If you wanted to have CBT with me, contact me to book your free consultation.