Reaching out for help at any time can be difficult – but for many, the perinatal period is particularly fraught with hesitation. Many women put subconscious pressure on themselves to be happy and excited about their pregnancy and growing family. And while for most, this is a joyful time, the weight of such expectations can eclipse the mental health challenges that arise for expecting or new parents.
Therapy is an effective treatment to contend with these maternal mental health challenges. Therapy offers a nonjudgmental space to air out your fears and emotions, and paves the way for positive progress towards achieving balanced, level parenting skills. Read on for what to look for if you're seeking help for perinatal mental health.
And if you’re ready to look for support, find perinatal specialists near you on Zencare:
1. Specialization, advanced education, and training
While many therapists are excited to support new mothers, it's important to find a provider who has advanced training in perinatal issues so that you are appropriately screened for all relevant mental health issues, are provided the best evidence-based treatments, and can be recommended the necessary local supports as needed, including new mom groups, psychiatrists, and intensive programs.
Perinatal specialists should have:
- In-depth understanding of attachment
- Training in evidence-based treatment modalities for perinatal mood disorders
- Ability to assess appropriately, e.g. between postpartum OCD and psychosis
In addition to the regular intake questions that therapists ask in a first therapy session, perinatal therapists should screened you for the following mental health conditions:
- Prenatal anxiety and depression
- Postpartum anxiety
- Postpartum depression
- Baby Blues
- Postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder
- Postpartum psychosis
- Challenges associated with high-risk pregnancies and births
- Bipolar disorder
- Thoughts of self-harm and harm to the baby
Related: Learn the difference between baby blues vs. postpartum depression
2. Use of evidence-based therapy types
These are evidence based treatments for different perinatal mental health conditions:
- Anxiety: CBT.
- Depression: Behavioral activation, CBT, psychodynamic, interpersonal therapy (IPT), ACT.
- OCD: ERP, CBT, ACT.
- Bipolar: CBT, psychoeducation, psychodynamic, social rhythm, self care
- Psychosis: close relationship with prescriber; risk assessment; knowing referral sources for higher level of care
3. Find a great personal fit
In addition to the therapist’s expertise, look for a therapist you feel comfortable opening up to, and who you trust.
Jane Hesser, a perinatal specialist in Rhode Island, emphasizes the importance of this fit. "You should feel that you can open up to the therapist and that she or he truly understands what you are experiencing," she says.
This level of comfort and trust are known as the therapeutic alliance, a connection between the therapist and client that is proven to be the most important indicator of success in therapy across treatment types.
4. Check the therapist accepts your health insurance, or their fees are within your budget
As with any therapist, make sure perinatal therapist accepts your insurance or you can pay their fees.
Most new moms will start their therapist search through their health insurance network. However, though in-network therapists tend to be more affordable, looking for one can take a long time as in-network therapists are high in demand and many have long wait lists.
Further, because perinatal mental health is a unique specialty, many providers with advanced training do not take insurance as they pay them low rates.
Seeing an out-of-network therapist is a great alternative way to get an appointment quickly. In large cities such as NYC and Boston, 50min therapy sessions with perinatal specialists cost $175 - $250 per session; in smaller cities like Providence, Rhode Island, they may range closer to $120 - $175 per session.
5. Check availability and accessibility
If a therapist specializes in perinatal concerns, they should have hours at times that work for new moms such as daytimes. However it’s always a good idea to check this as therapist availabilities can fill up.
Ask if your therapist allows you to bring your baby in; most postpartum therapists will design their office to be baby-friendly, whether that means creating a space in the office for the baby to be or ensuring elevator access.
Ready to look for support? Find perinatal specialists near you on Zencare. You can filter by location and availability, plus cost and insurance, then watch introductory videos of each therapist and book a free assessment call directly from the site:
Remember, the simple act of scheduling an appointment with a perinatal therapist you feel optimistic about – and knowing that you'll have access to the kind of help you need – can be a relief in and unto itself.