What is perinatal mental health and how to cope during pregnancy?
A letter to you from Silvia Wetherell, perinatal mental health counsellor at More Mindful.
I wonder how you are feeling right at this moment. Perhaps you are joyful with this little life growing inside of you. Perhaps you are excited about the future and all the many ways in which your life is about to change. But perhaps you are worried and anxious too.
Maybe your mind is coming up with many “what if?” questions that make it hard to feel ok. Or you may be experiencing moments when you feel down, sad and even wondering why you decided to have a baby at all. You have a unique story that has brought you here to this moment: this transition that will forever change your life with baby’s arrival. I hope you have had a smooth journey up to this point and it will continue to be so. But I know that you may also have experienced pregnancy loss or had to endure the stress of fertility treatment.
I’m here to tell you that these upsetting thoughts and feelings, as well as painful experiences, are actually quite common and that you are not alone. However, such negative feelings and thoughts get too easily brushed aside and explained away, usually with comments such as “it’s just your hormones!” or “this is normal”. You don’t have to put on a brave face and pretend you’re OK as you struggle on the inside. Listen to the people who love you and know you well, and to that wise part in you, in trying to understand whether extra support is needed through this transition. Positive change can come in many ways, such as a compassionate listening ear, a healthier lifestyle, or working through these feelings with a mental health professional.
Pregnancy and early motherhood are a time of exquisite vulnerability: emotions are amplified, and it can all get too overwhelming. This goes for all kinds of feelings: from the frustration of having to wake five times in the night, to the intense love for your baby that feels like it’s going to burst your heart wide open.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I was pregnant with my first child. I thought that my training and years of psychotherapy beforehand, would mean motherhood would be a piece of cake. The delivery experience, the physical recovery afterwards, the sense of isolation and aloneness I felt sometimes, the resentment at my partner who was ‘lucky’ to get to go to work all day…the list could go on. Impressive how many unconscious expectations one can carry without being aware of them.
I invite you now to take a pause and ask yourself with curiosity just how many of these unhelpful expectations you might be carrying also. I know it’s hard to imagine life beyond the delivery, mothering a newborn. And yet, that is when you are most likely to struggle and need support.
And when and if you do, help is out there. All you need to do is reach out.
Silvia Wetherell | More Mindful
Silvia Wetherell is the Clinical Director at More Mindful and a registered counsellor (SAC) with specialised certification in maternal mental health (PMH-C). Currently pursuing a PhD in Applied Psychophysiology, Silvia is introducing innovative ways to promote good mental health using biofeedback interventions.
Additionally, Silvia is a Postpartum Support International (PSI) coordinator and co-founder of the free support group for mothers, Mindful Mums. Having been trained in London and with a Masters from Monash University, Silvia practises integratively to help her clients work through pre and postpartum depression and anxiety, pregnancy loss, birth trauma, difficulties with bonding, relationship adjustment, anger management and parenting issues.
More Mindful is a specialised parental mental health counselling clinic which provides comprehensive clinical interventions for women who are suffering from the range of prenatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. In addition, Silvia and her team are passionate about providing the same level of psychological support to husbands and partners, to help couples transition into parenthood and guide the whole family to a healthy emotional start.
Her clinic operates from Raffles Place and Mother and Child’s clinic at Tanglin Mall. She offers online and phone counselling consultations. House calls and hospital visits can also be arranged. Referrals to More Mindful come from obstetricians, family practitioners, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, midwife-led clinics, breastfeeding support groups, Postpartum Support International, and direct referrals from the mother or family members.
Partners or family members are encouraged to be involved in the treatment program if beneficial to the family. Babies are also very welcome to join the counselling sessions. In addition to English, her team of counsellors provide counselling sessions in Dutch, Hindi and Portuguese.
Dr Kamini Rajaratnam
Dr Kamini Rajaratnam (MBBS, MRCPsych, FAMS) is a patient-centred psychiatrist who is committed to providing compassionate and holistic care to her patients. She is especially passionate about working with women facing emotional issues during and after pregnancy. One in seven women suffer from postnatal depression and 80% of women experience mood disturbances in the postpartum period. As a mother herself, the challenges of pregnancy and motherhood resonate only too well with her. She has made it her mission to guide mothers who are facing emotional difficulties or on the brink of burnout, to make the changes necessary to reach their optimal health and functioning. She’s certified in the Mindful Motherhood program and Bringing Baby Home program, and she uses these powerful tools in combination with other interventions and medication when necessary. There is help available for anyone feeling increasingly overwhelmed, experiencing mood disturbances, anxiety, insomnia, irritability and fatigue.
Dr Amy Reale
Dr. Amy Reale is an American clinical psychologist, who has lived and practised in Singapore since 2014. As Director of Comprehensive Psychological Services, Dr. Reale provides psychotherapy and consultations to children, parents and families. Her doctoral research, under the tutelage of a leading mother-infant researcher in New York City, focused on the impact of maternal depression and anxiety on the nonverbal dynamic between mothers and babies. This, alongside her extensive training in early childhood development, psychodynamic/analytic therapy, neuropsychology and nonverbal observations, makes Dr. Reale uniquely qualified to support parents and their babies in fostering healthy bonding, attachment and development. Dr. Reale received her Doctoral and Master’s degrees from an accredited university in New York City, USA. She is registered in Singapore and licensed in NY, USA, as a psychologist and holds full membership in the World Association for Infant Mental Health, among other international societies.
Tanja Faessler | Counsellingconnectz
When launching Counsellingconnectz in 2012, its director and founder, Tanja Faessler, knew one thing for sure: it had to connect deeply with her passion for coaching and counselling. The winner of this year’s ‘Most Innovative Award for Product + Services’ in The Finder’s 2020 Expatpreneur eAwards, has translated her personal mission into the only fertility-related counselling place of its kind in Singapore.
From couples counselling to counselling just for kids, Counsellingconnectz aims to provide clients with strong mental and emotional support on their journeys, in extended topics such as primary and secondary infertility, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, loss (miscarriage, stillbirth or elective termination) and marriage counselling.
The diverse team has developed an in-depth knowledge, through their close collaboration with medical specialists and their network of holistic practitioners, to provide the best possible services to aid their clients. The majority of the team members have been granted membership into the Fertility Society Australia (FSA) and Australian and New Zealand Infertility Counsellors’ Association (ANZICA).
Dr Ronina Stevens and Dr Emma Waddington, founders of Thrive Family, set out to create an honest and compassionate environment that allows clinicians and clients to thrive. All the therapists at Thrive Family have a shared commitment to using evidence-based practice in their work. Some of the therapies they use include Cognitive Behavioural Therapies (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR), and mindfulness.
Mary Barrett | Mary Barrett Global
As a mum, it’s easy to forget about one’s life journey when everything is given to work and the family. Feeling constantly out of control, maybe with fear, panic or anxiety; always exhausted; trying to juggle life-work-family-home; and being at a crossroads not knowing what to do next, requires assistance and, perhaps, the time to invest in the mother.
Mary Barrett is an experienced mindset coach and NLP practitioner offering individuals, teams and organisations Empowering Mind Mastery coaching programs. A mum herself, Mary brings a wealth of experience and wisdom to provide individual coaching programs for MasterMums. Mary will help build self-confidence, self-worth and self-belief so that mums can trust their own instincts and live more authentically. With Mary’s support, clients gain a clear direction on what is next for themselves, their family and their careers. Mary provides an incredibly powerful toolkit so mums can take full control of their mind, turning the inner critic into the biggest cheerleader.
Linda Tan | Inspire Mum & Baby
Linda is the pioneer Watsu practitioner in Singapore. Watsu began as a form of aquatic therapy for rehabilitation and incorporates mind and body relaxation. This is beneficial for postnatal moms who are having baby blues and postpartum depression. Please refer to the Allied Health: Labour Preparation chapter for her full listing.