While people discuss having a child as perhaps the most wonderful and life-changing event a person will ever experience, we seldom acknowledge the worry and uncertainty that often coincides with pregnancy or how the transition into parenthood can lead to feeling stressed, anxious and depressed. Anxiety and depression can elevate during pregnancy, as we juggle our careers or role changes, doctors appointments, and physical and emotional changes that complicate our daily lives. Or perhaps we are particularly nervous about birthing; more specifically, the fear of the pain and uncertainty and/or concerns that we will do it in a way that could affect our child. This is complicated by societal expectations that this should be a time full of bliss - as evidenced by the negative influence of social media (i.e., nonstop images of seemingly worry-free expectant mothers) - which ultimately leaves us feeling like we must be the only one feeling this way.
While pregnancy is a wonderful experience, it is also quite normal to feel difficult emotions surrounding pregnancy, fear of medical procedures, anxiety regarding pregnancy options, worry that something will go wrong, and/or fear of major life changes. This is often in sharp contrast to society’s expectations that both men and women should be nothing but hopeful, optimistic, and glowing from the experience. Instead, we often feel a mixture of emotions. We can be happy about being pregnant, while also feeling anxiety and fear about the impending life changes. We can be cheerful and envision a positive future with our child, while also feeling resentful of timing, uncertain about our relationship, or fearful that it will interfere with our life goals. Any ambivalence, fear, or doubt can be hard to discuss with our friends and family - and at times, it can even be hard to admit to ourselves.
Dr. Samantha Gaies, Dr. Karolina Pekala, Dr. Meghan Downey work with clients throughout the pregnancy process. They offer a supportive, nonjudgmental form of therapy, which allows clients to discuss and explore their myriad of thoughts and feelings about pregnancy, while also bringing expert knowledge and resources to the pregnancy process.
Integrating hypnosis and therapy can be powerful for preparing to get pregnant, the pregnancy itself, and the birthing process. Hypnosis aids in visualizing a positive pregnancy and life for the child, calming the mind, and helping clients access inner resources to help them through this process. Integrative therapy works to address fears and concerns, stop obsessive thoughts surrounding pregnancy, and promote the transition to parenthood. Our therapists integrate hypnosis and therapy with a tailored approach so that each expecting mother feels like an individual as they develop a cohesive plan to feel confident and at ease through the pregnancy process.
Fear of childbirth is very common and is particularly prevalent amongst first time mothers and women who have had negative experiences in the past. We know that throughout history many women have died during childbirth and that the very definition of labor is “hard physical work.” Thus, many women have become conditioned to anticipate their birthing experience to be associated with extreme pain, which contributes to the fear of childbirth. This fear can be elevated by outside sources, such as from those sharing negative birthing stories or the media showing women in agony. It can also be partially psychological: as a way to focus on a fear that is tangible as opposed to intangible, such as the natural fears that arise in response to an enormous life transition that are difficult to grasp or explain.
Dr. Meghan Downey is an expert in using hypnosis and integrative therapy to support women through the pregnancy and birthing process. As both a Clinical Psychologist and a certified HypnoBirthing Educator, she combines her knowledge as a perinatal psychologist with her training in women’s anatomy, birth-planning, hypnosis, birth, and bonding to provide mothers holistic care and treatment during the perinatal period. She uses her knowledge of psychotherapy in order to support expectant mothers in navigating the distress, fears, grief, excitement and reflections that accompany the perinatal period, while also teaching hypnobirthing throughout so that her patients learn to utilize relaxation techniques during the birthing process and combat stress and fear related to the labor.
Learning birth hypnosis at the same time as navigating birthing and pregnancy fears through therapy has many advantages. Hypnobirthing can support mothers in many ways, including: reducing fear, tension, and pain during labor; lessening fatigue during labor and improving alertness; and shortening the opening phase of labor by giving the mother an opportunity to breathe her baby down to the crowning stage. It has also been shown to lead to improved emotional and physical postpartum recovery. At the same time, therapy can address the mental health issues that are common during this time, such as depressive, anxious and obsessive thoughts, relationship challenges, physical symptoms from pregnancy, work-related obstacles, and financial distress.
It’s not unusual for mothers and moms-to-be to seek out hypnobirthing, though not necessarily psychotherapy. Sometimes fear of birthing is easier to speak about than fear of motherhood. Sometimes moms feel like they "must" be excited and happy and anything other than that is “wrong.” And frankly, sometimes it’s easier to focus on the excitement of the new baby rather than all of the other areas of life that need attention. The reality, however, is that many pregnant women feel like they're alone: alone in their feelings and alone in their experiences. While each mother or mother-to-be is unique, collectively, they share their desire to have a relaxed birthing experience and easy adjustment into motherhood. By combining therapy and hypnosis, Dr. Downey is able to address these issues in an all-encompassing way, providing support for the emotional and physical needs of the whole person throughout the pregnancy and birthing process.
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