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Perinatal Mental Health

What the Perinatal Period?

The perinatal period can be defined as the time before, during, and after pregnancy and can include:

  • Efforts to become pregnant.

  • Times experiencing any perinatal loss.

  • The newborn period.

It is important to note that most research on perinatal mental health has been done with heterosexual, cis-gender, and White populations. Because of this, research often uses the words “mother” and “women” as the primary language. “Birthing or pregnant person/people” and “chestfeeding” is intentionally used here to be inclusive and representative of all experiences within perinatal mental health.


Why EMDR during the Perinatal Period?

  • Research indicates that around 9% of birthing people will develop PTSD after childbirth, 7.5% of pregnant people will show a pathological fear of childbirth, up to 45% will experience childbirth as traumatic, and 15% to 20% will experience significant symptoms of anxiety or depression during or after the birth of a child.

  • This chronic and pervasive distress can increase the risk of:

    • Preterm birth and low infant birth weight.

    • Childhood mental illness and attention deficits.

  • And negatively impact:

    • The development of the baby and their nervous system.

    • The bond between baby and birthing parent.

    • The child’s future ability to emotionally regulate.

    • The child’s future development of verbal skills and learning.


Research on EMDR & Perinatal Period:

Research has shown that EMDR therapy during the perinatal period can:

  • Enhance parents’ internal resources, install positive future responses, improve well-being, and increase grounding skills.

  • Support the birthing parent in identifying and processing past traumas, which could otherwise increase their risk of Postpartum PTSD and Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders.

  • Reduce toxic stress in the birthing parent.

  • Deepen the bond between baby and birthing parent and increase parents’ capacity for adaptive and secure attachment.

  • Aid in healing past attachment wounds and reduce PTSD symptoms, intrusive thoughts, and fears of childbirth.

  • Assist parents in developing parental identity, emotional regulation, and relationship management.

  • Increase ability to cope with pregnancy, perinatal loss, childbirth, and the newborn period.


Perinatal Mental Health and BIPoC and LGBTQ+:

BIPoC and LGBTQ+ parents experience Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders and Perinatal PTSD at a much higher rate than White and/or cis-gender, heterosexual birthing people.  Parents in BIPoC communities are also more likely to suffer from higher maternal and infant mortality rates. BIPoC and LGBTQ+ parents are also screened less frequently, are less likely to be offered mental health treatment, experience unequal access to quality health care, report worse birthing experiences and more frequent complications following childbirth, and often navigate substantial barriers to care, or experience racist and discriminatory care.

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