Parenthood can bring so much joy, and yet, so much anxiety and uncertainty. For the new mother, it can bring a myriad of emotions that can be triggered by hormones, expectations on mothers, or even postpartum depression; whereas the transition to parenthood can bring about frustration, anxiety, depression and stress in response to this new role for any gender. Some parents may remain blissful throughout pregnancy, only to discover that they are stressed, exhausted, or overwhelmed by the transition to becoming a new parent. We may want to be a ‘good’ parents, but are plagued by self-doubt and confused by the often conflicting parenting advice given by family, friends, and even experts in the field.
Postpartum blues, depression, and anxiety can be extremely upsetting for new mothers. For some women, this comes as a complete surprise — it’s the first time they’ve experienced debilitating depression or anxiety. Others may have had episodes of anxiety or depression in the past, but these feelings arise suddenly and intensely in a way they didn’t anticipate. It can feel like a negative mood that won’t go away or an unsettling thought loop that seems to be set on repeat. This can leave a new mother feeling helpless, hopeless, and extremely disappointed, particularly when they had envisioned feeling very differently after giving birth.
Dr. Meghan Downey specializes and serves as an advocate for women dealing with issues surrounding postpartum depression and the transition into motherhood. She uses hypnosis and integrative therapy to help women with postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA), as well as the stress associated with the transition into parenthood. She understands the many emotional hurdles that come with this transition and can help women move past these difficult feelings so they can live happy and fulfilling lives.
Postpartum blues are extremely common, with up to 70% of new mothers experiencing some form in the first few weeks after giving birth. Postpartum Depression (PPD), on the other hand, occurs for 1 in 9 new mothers, lasts for an extended amount of time and is much more severe. It can include feelings of worthlessness, fears of being disconnected from your child, worry that you are a bad parent, anger, sadness and nonstop crying. Postpartum anxiety can similarly lead to near-constant worry that’s difficult to ease (e.g., something bad will happen to the baby), sleep disruptions, and obsessive, racing thoughts. Many times, however, postpartum depression and anxiety occur hand and hand - either experiencing both together, or vacillating between the two.
While the exact causes of postpartum depression and anxiety are not clearly defined and can vary from one person to another, we do know there are several factors that contribute to depression and anxiety in the months following the birth of a new child. These include hormonal fluctuations, loss of identity, lack of sleep, conflict with a spouse, frustration and confusion over caring for a new infant, concern about physical changes in the body, lack of freedom, and feelings of isolation. By combining hypnosis, mindfulness and therapy, Dr. Downey is able to identify the contributing causes of depression and anxiety, while hypnosis helps her clients visualize a more uplifting future as they set tangible goals to help end the cycle of distressing thoughts and feelings that accompany postpartum depression.
The transition into parenthood is a beautiful experience, yet it can also be extremely challenging. It’s a time full of mixed emotions in which someone can feel blissful about the birth of their new child, while also feeling strained financially and emotionally. This major life change and new set of responsibilities can feel completely exhausting and overwhelming.
Dr. Karolina Pekala and Dr. Meghan Downey work with individuals and couples to support issues that arise in terms of identity and techniques for parenting. They understand the struggles women face upon becoming new mothers, such as hormonal fluctuations, loss of identity, trouble breastfeeding, navigating difficult career and financial decisions, sleep deprivation, isolation, and new strains on relationships. They use mindfulness and hypnotherapy to support new mothers through postpartum issues, as well as helping both mothers and fathers transition into parenthood.
Dr. Pekala completed an obstetrics rotation at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, where she helped expectant mothers in conjunction with their OB and psychiatrist. She is well-read in the research that demonstrates that postpartum symptoms can emerge as soon as the third trimester and that prenatal and postnatal therapy can help offset baby blues. Dr. Pekala helps mothers navigate challenges, such as high-risk pregnancies and changing family dynamics when a new member of the family arrives, especially for older siblings. At Woodhull, Dr. Pekala also enjoyed working with child and adolescent patients and their families. She provided individual and family therapy, with a focus on psychoeducational sessions for parents based on their child's specific diagnosis. Dr. Pekala continued this work at her postdoctoral fellowship at the Cambridge Eating Disorder Center. Dr. Pekala believes that meetings with the family helps parents express their emotions and concerns in a warm and supportive atmosphere, learn about their child's diagnosis, become informed about strategies to implement at home and school, and develop strengthened relational bonds within the whole family unit.
Dr. Downey has a vested interest in women’s health including postpartum challenges and parenting. She has led community presentations in her position as Program Manager at Northwell Health, which included topics such as "Resiliency in Motherhood." There she also facilitated the International Women’s Day panel discussion, covering issues and cultural dynamics such as "The Working Mother" and "Women in the Workplace." In her role, she gained extensive experience working with adolescents, young adults, and parents.
Dr. Downey has also written a collection of works on parenting challenges including: “The Supermom Phenomenon” and “The Double Standard of Parenting.” She has collaborated with other writers on topics, such as Permissive Parenting and Uninvolved Parenting. As a mother herself, Dr. Downey approaches her work with women and parents with warmth, compassion, validation and empathy. Using mindfulness, hypnosis, psychoeducation, and other integrative methods, she supports her clients through their transition to hope, optimism, and confidence.
There are many benefits to blending hypnosis, mindfulness, and therapy techniques to support the transition into motherhood and issues surrounding parenting. This is often a period where we are caring for another at the expense of personal self-care. Dr. Pekala and Dr. Downey use their vast experience with CBT, psychoanalysis, and relational therapy to create a safe and supportive environment to explore the thoughts and feelings associated with this transition, while using hypnosis and mindfulness to help clients find peace and calmness when feeling frantic and overwhelmed.
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