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Adjusting to Feelings During Pregnancy and After Childbirth


By Allison Murphy, MFT – Mothers Care

Expecting a baby is a time that brings many feelings with it. Your very normal feelings can reflect how you feel about having your baby and they can fluctuate depending on the day, the hour, the minute. Some women experience a range of emotions that may be a result of an underlying stress situation or existing behavioral health issue. Regardless, there are many resources for an expectant mother, or new mother, who may want to talk to a professional therapist (Local resources can be found at the end of this blog).

Here is a brief list of common situations during or after pregnancy:

Adjusting and preparing during pregnancy: Nesting is the instinct to get your home ready for your baby’s arrival. This powerful and productive urge can be applied to your emotional life. “Emotional Nesting” is the process of emotionally preparing for your baby’s arrival, including addressing aspects of life that could negatively affect your pregnancy, birthing and the new parent experience. A past trauma, a current stressor, or new feelings can negatively affect the pregnancy experience. Also addressed are depression and anxiety in a past pregnancy or postpartum. Many women find this type of preparation empowering and preventative.  

Adjusting after baby: After your baby is born, sometimes it can feel like you just experienced an earthquake… everything has shifted…couple and family functioning, workload, biology, self-image and everyday schedules are all different. Sometimes the birth experience and life afterwards are radically different than expected. Addressing the aspects that “feel out of place” can help to adjust to all the changes that have occurred.  

Importance of Sleep: Sleep is a barometer of health during pregnancy and postpartum. If you are exhausted, and you have the opportunity to sleep but you cannot, this is a red flag. An example of this is that everyone in the home, including the baby, is sleeping, you’re exhausted, but you cannot sleep. If you are experiencing this, it is recommended that you seek out an assessment immediately.  

Anxiety: Anxiety can increase during pregnancy and postpartum. Thoughts and worries can be overwhelming, alarming and interrupt daily functioning. Sometimes women feel agitated and aggravated, this can be accompanied by panic and general unease. This is exacerbated by exhaustion/inability to sleep.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Strongly associated with anxiety, some women experience intrusive and repetitive thoughts during pregnancy and after birth. These thoughts can be alarming and are that is at times associated with compulsive or avoidant behavior that may be new or reoccurring symptoms experienced prior to pregnancy.  

Depression: During pregnancy and postpartum, some women experience periods of overwhelming feelings such as sadness, guilt, worthlessness and disorientation. They may have changes in their appetite, weight and sleep can be affected. Women often report “feeling flat” or “not like themselves.” Anxiety can accompany depression.  

Bipolar Disorder: Becoming pregnant after being diagnosed and treated for bipolar disorder can have many considerations. Therapists, such as those from Mothers Care, work with women to create a comprehensive plan to address both physical and psychological needs during pregnancy and postpartum.

After a miscarriage or stillborn birth, neonatal or early infant death: Understandably a woman and her partner can experience many emotions after such a loss. The shock, sadness, and grief can be accompanied by self-doubt and sometimes self-blame. Women and couples often feel alone and isolated experiencing hormonal changes and the reminders of the pregnancy and the baby. Looking forward to future pregnancy can be fraught with a mixture of courage, hope, grief, and trepidation.

If you are experiencing any of these situations, during pregnancy or postpartum, you are not alone. Many women experience a range of emotions they did not expect to feel. Support strategies are designed to improve mood, to reduce stress and to help you to have the parenting experience you envision.


Resources for Parents

Support group: Free postpartum depression support group with marriage and family therapist Lily Rossman meets from 10:30 a.m. to noon on the second and fourth Friday each month at the Santa Rosa Birth Center, 583 Summerfield Road.

Stress management: The Child Parent Institute, Perinatal Mood Disorders, in Santa Rosa offers bilingual in-home and group stress-management programs designed to support the infant-parent bond. Its low-cost program Mothers & Babies was recommended last week by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force as an effective preventive intervention for women at risk of postpartum mood disorders. For information, visit calparents.org or call 707-585-6108.

Screenings and counseling: Mothers Care of Petaluma offers screening, assessment and counseling — with up to two free sessions, for qualifying Petaluma residents — maternal mental health education and resources. For information, visit mothercaresupport.com or call 707-776-0959.

Weekly group: Weekly sessions for pregnant women and new mothers who are members of Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa take place from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Thursdays at 2235 Mercury Way. For information, visit https://k-p.li/2GQt89Q.

How To Get Help

  • North Bay Suicide Prevention 24-hour hotline: 855-587-6373
  • NAMI Sonoma County warmline: 707-527-6655
  • Sonoma County Psychiatric Emergency Services: 707-576-8181
  • For information on Sonoma County support groups, call 707-527-6655 or go to namisonomacounty.org

Online Resources