Parenting Support & Family Therapy: A Baby Changes Everything

Congratulations, you’re having a baby! A baby changes everything, from the number of loads of laundry you do each week, the amount of sleep you’ll get to the revised role of every other family member. Maybe you are a first time parent, a couple that has been dealing with fertility issues, a blended family or a single parent – whatever your situation, things are going to be different.

What are some of the biggest changes people experience after the birth of a child? A 2011 study by the National Marriage Project of the University of Virginia found that of nearly 3,000 couples surveyed, two thirds of them experienced some type of marital dissatisfaction after the arrival of a child. An April 2011 Wall Street Journal article tackled the growing trend toward pre-baby couples counseling to work out marital trouble spots such as dividing up baby-related responsibilities, financial issues, sexual relations and changing social lives. A growing number of hospitals, physicians and midwives are also recommending relationship skills programs alongside childbirth education classes, all with the goal of lessening new baby strife.

Some of the most common post-baby marital issues reported were:

  • Financial tension
  • Sexual satisfaction
  • Sense of commitment
  • Isolation
  • Lack of respect
  • A willingness to forgive/forget their partner for shortcomings and failures
  • Shared household responsibilities

For families that have been dealing with fertility issues, a baby is especially poignant. The first year of parenting is tough on any new parent, but it can be even more challenging for couple who faced infertility issues. Often parents of children conceived via In vitro fertilization (IVF) or other ART (Assisted Reproduction Techniques) feel that they are unable to complain or even admit they are struggling, after all, this is what they wanted. Research shows that parents who have used ART to conceive show a significantly increased rate of early parenting difficulties and may require additional support before and after their babies are born.

Then there is the complex issue of postpartum or post natal depression.  There’s no one cause of postpartum depression. Physical, emotional and lifestyle factors may all play a role. According to research done by the Mayo Clinic, the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression vary from woman to woman and pregnancy to pregnancy. Milder forms, such as “Baby Blues”, only last for a few days to a week or two and may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Crying
  • Decreased concentration
  • Trouble sleeping

More severer and longer lasting, postpartum depression may appear to be the baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and longer lasting, eventually interfering with the ability to care for the infant and handle other daily tasks. Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.

Postpartum depression symptoms may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Lack of joy in life
  • Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Severe mood swings
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

A far more severe and rarer condition, postpartum psychosis typically develops within the first two weeks after delivery Signs and symptoms of postpartum psychosis may include:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Attempts to harm yourself or your baby

If you, your spouse or family member is struggling with any of these issues after the birth of a child, please seek help from a skilled therapist who has experience with postpartum depression and marital counseling. Contact the Great Lakes Psychology Group today to schedule a confidential appointment online, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.