Psychotherapy for Postnatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders

perinatal depression

New parents may feel anxious and depressed, cry for no clear reason, have trouble sleeping and making decision, lose their appetite, and become angry at their newborn, other children, or partner. These symptoms, often referred to as the “baby blues,” usually last a few days to two weeks.

In contrast, postnatal mood and anxiety disorders involve intense feelings of anxiety, sadness, or hopelessness that last longer than two weeks and affect the new parent’s day-to-day functioning. Up to one in five females [1] and one in ten males experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders [2].

Risk Factors

Risk factors associated with postnatal mood and anxiety disorders include:

  • Personal and/or family history of psychiatric/psychological disorders
  • Endocrine dysfunction (e.g., diabetes, thyroid imbalance, fertility challenges)
  • Complications in pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding
  • Ambivalence to parenthood / unplanned pregnancy
  • Negative/traumatic experiences of childhood
  • Current intimate partner violence
  • Inadequate partner and/or social support
  • Childcare stress [4]

Steps To Wellness

If you are a new parent, you can take the following steps to enhance your well-being:

  • Adequate sleep to recharge and restore your body 
  • Good nutrition (focus on proteins, whole grains, and vegetables) aids recovery from pregnancy and childbirth
  • Exercise relieves stress, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood
  • Practical help from others to ensure you have time to rest and for yourself
  • Emotional support from family and friends provide connection, understanding, and sometimes ideas that may help solve problems
  • Sometimes, new parents may find it beneficial to share their feelings and/or challenges they experience in their new role to mental health professionals.

Effective Psychotherapy

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has been consistently found to be effective for the treatment of postnatal depression [5] and anxiety [6].

The goal of CBT is to help new parents find balance with
acceptance and change via various therapeutic components, such as:

  • Cognitive restructuring to identify, evaluate, and change dysfunctional patterns of thinking
  • Emotional regulation skills to cope with intense feelings
  • Communication and interpersonal skills to ask for what you need and build positive relationships
  • Activity scheduling to engage in enjoyable activities that are aligned with your values
  • Imaginal exposure to help you confront and overcome your fears by gradually exposing yourself to the things that make you anxious or afraid

Experience The Difference

As a parent herself, Clinical Psychologist Ms. Yammie Chin is passionate in helping new parents adjust to their new identities and cope with the emotional challenges of parenthood. Yammie practises at Mind Care @ SBF and is trained in Advanced Perinatal Mental Health Psychotherapy by Postpartum Support International.

Contact Mind Care @ SBF to schedule an appointment with Yammie to better cope with the emotional challenges of parenthood.

References

[1] Prevatt, B., & Desmarais, S. L. (2017). Facilitators and barriers to disclosure of postpartum mood disorder symptoms to a healthcare provider. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 22, 120-129.

[2] Habib, C. (2012). Paternal perinatal depression: An overview and suggestions towards an intervention model. Journal of Family Studies, 18(1), 4-16. 

[3] Hutchens, B., F., & Kearney, J. (2020). Risk factors for postpartum depression: An umbrella review. Journey of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 65(1), 96-108. 

[4] Blount, A. J., Adams, C. R., Anderson-Berry, A. L., Hanson, C., Schneider, K., & Pendyala, G. (2021). Biopsychosocial factors during the perinatal period: Risks, preventative factors, and implications for healthcare professionals. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18, 8206. 

[5] Cuijpers, P., & Karyotaki, E. (2021). The effects of psychological treatment of perinatal depression: An overview. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 24, 801-806.

[6] Marchesi, C., Ossola, P., Amerio, A., Daniel, B. D., Tonna, M., & De Panfilis, C. (2016). Clinical management of perinatal anxiety disorders: A systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders, 190(15), 543-550.