Pregnancy is often welcomed with joy and hope however, many challenges and distress may still occur during a mother’s pregnancy. Any concerns simple or complex may impact the wellness of the mother, her baby and cause stress on her multiple relationships. Oftentimes, mothers have to face planned or unplanned life changing events.
Mothers to be can be confronted with life changes, identity shifts, relational conflicts, financial uncertainties, unplanned pregnancies, ambivalence about their bonding to their babies, body image difficulties and/or hormonal dysregulation.
For many mothers who were victims of childhood abuse, symptoms of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress may return again, or surface for the first time during pregnancy.
Giving the ACE questionnaire to all the mothers at the beginning of their Pre-perinatal care is vital. If the score of a mother is high, Psychotherapy as well as, increased OB-medical attention will be advantageous.
During gestation mothers are particularly receptive to positively impacting both the life of their babies and their own. The ACE questionnaire can indicate the need for early intervention for mothers. This too can be a safeguard for the baby and prevent multigenerational trauma which we know can be passed down.
How do we protect and care for the baby “in utero” when the ACE scores are high?
- Pre-perinatal psychotherapy can be most helpful, EMDR-attachment trauma informed therapy, even better.
-The management of life conflicts and situational distress is an effective intervention.
-Resourcing the mother and reducing common anticipatory anxiety will benefit her, the child and those around her.
- Conjoint sessions facilitated by the psychotherapist with the mother, the father of the baby, family member(s) and other children, can be extremely helpful and informative for all involved.
-A Psychotherapist who reaches out to the medical team involved in the mother’s care such as, her OB doctor, Midwife, Ultrasound technician and others will prove invaluable.
-Psychoeducating the mother about the importance of a smooth adjustment between the children at home with the baby is an important conversation.
- Nutritional support by a Registered Dietician is recommended as it will benefit the mother and child.
- Integrating the OB-Medical care with the psychotherapy and the nutritional services is a best clinical practice.
- Lastly, talking to the baby “in utero” is early stimulation and this positive communication will most likely promote a positive bonding experience and strong spontaneous mothering activities.
How a woman feels about being pregnant and how much perceived support she feels that she is getting from her partner will contribute to a successful pregnancy.
Growing a Healthy Baby
Early interaction between parents and their child is critical. The real question is what do babies want and need.
This is what babies might say:
As a baby in my mother’s womb if I could talk I would want my parents to acknowledge me now. I would want my mother, my father, my caregivers and all those around me to –
- LOVE me. Tell me out loud so I can hear it. I need to hear my parents. I need to hear my mom, my caregiver. I need to hear that I am BEING loved.
- I need to be told that I am WELCOME, constantly and of course after birthing, but I need to hear it now, while I am in my mom’s womb.
- You will tell me to TAKE MY TIME that I do not need to hurry.
- My NEEDS are welcome by you.
- I have the lovely RIGHT to be here, to be fed and taken care of.
- You are GLAD and PLEASED I am a girl/boy.
- You LIKE ME being near you and you enjoy touching me.
- TALK to me, I need to be talked to every day, I exist. If twins, “we” exist individually, even though we are stronger together, we each matter. Talk to both of us together and separately.
- DANCE with me and let me know about the song. If dad is around, or I have siblings, let’s all dance together. Allow them to love me, to bond with me, to enjoy who I am. Movement and rhythm matters.
- READ to me, babies love stories.
- ROCK me in a swing or a rocking chair, bilateral movements are calming.
- If you argue in my presence please let me know it is not my fault. Release me of any wrong doing or responsibility. We need to have emotional boundaries starting now, while I am “in utero”. You can always APOLOGIZE if you argue in my presence, I know you are human.
- Let’s PLAY. We could do soapy bubbles in the air and breathe, or find some big Legos. We could build a house together and you could tell me all about it.
- We could PAINT. You could even paint your belly, I will feel you.
- Let’s take PICTURES together.
All these lovely interactive activities and experiences will allow the baby to experience being loved and protected.
Remember that once in the womb the baby is already here and that life has already begun, the time to talk to the baby is now!
About the Author
Rosita Cortizo, Psy.D, MFT, MA, is originally from Panama, Republic of Panama and works as an OB-GYN, EMDR Pre-perinatal High Risk Psychologist in San Diego, CA. She has worked with pregnant woman, babies and their families for the past 26 years.