What is Perinatal Psychiatry and How Can It Help?
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health – 51 percent of the U.S. population will suffer from a mental health issue at some point in their lives.
Regrettably, the matter of mental health remains shrouded by misconceptions and harmful stereotypes. Many people with mental health problems feel that the stigma and discrimination they experience from their family, friends, employer, and society itself, makes their symptoms worse and delays the recovery process.
Frequently overlooked in the ongoing mental health conversation are pregnant women. How can these women get help for their mental or emotional challenges? The field of perinatal psychiatry is attempting to answer that question.
What is Perinatal Psychiatry?
A relatively new specialty, perinatal psychiatry focuses on the mental health of pregnant women rather than on women who have already delivered their baby. Since mental illness can present differently in pregnancy, it needs to be handled in a specialized manner. The needs of mother and baby must be considered when a mental illness is present.
Perinatal treatment methods vary and aren’t always clear-cut. What is clear is the overwhelming need to support expectant mothers with mental health concerns. Sadly, suicide from untreated mental illness is the leading indirect cause of maternal mortality.
The field of perinatal psychiatry has provided hope to many struggling mothers who have found relief from their symptoms with the proper treatment. One such success story comes from Dr. Neha Kansara, a psychiatrist at Amen Clinics in Washington D.C., who shares an inspiring story of how she was able to help one of her patients:
Sweet, lovely Jane, who normally arrived just in time for her appointment, showed up an hour early. I sensed something wasn’t right. Typically, Jane would be giggling and entertaining my staff, but today she appeared sad. I recognized nervousness the moment our eyes met.
“I’m pregnant,” Jane said. She started crying inconsolably. I sat beside her, calm and composed with my hands on her shoulders, providing her with a sense of comfort. “Dr. Neha, you know this is the end and my baby will die again.”
Jane suffered from chronic PTSD for repeated childhood sexual and emotional trauma. She was raped by her mother’s boyfriend and was pregnant at the tender age of 13. Facing the ugly complications that came with getting an abortion created fear towards pregnancy. Jane had begun to believe that she could never give birth to a healthy baby.
I asked what I could do to help. Jane said, “I want this baby alive. Do you think you can help me?”
Having knowledge of the field of Perinatal Psychiatry, I began researching different avenues that would assist a pregnant woman who has suffered through extensive years of trauma. One therapy option that looked promising was EMDR. After a few sessions of EMDR, Jane’s outlook began to improve, and she eventually gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
What is EMDR?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an extensively researched therapy technique that’s been very successful in bringing quick and lasting relief for a variety of symptoms and issues. The focus of EMDR is to resolve or eliminate emotional discomfort by shifting how a memory is triggered in the brain and to help a patient see things in new and less distressing ways.
EMDR may aid in reducing stress from painful memories and is particularly useful for people with a history of abuse. Also, EMDR can support people seeking to overcome symptoms of anxiety brought on by alarming or life-threatening experiences. One of the ways EMDR accomplishes this is by helping to remove the emotional charges of traumatic memories.
What Are the Benefits?
EMDR can help people by:
• Reducing the frequency and severity of nightmares
• Managing the debilitating effects of panic attacks
• Improving the quality of sleep
• Developing coping mechanisms for stressful situations
• Minimizing anger outbursts during elevated incidents
• Processing negative beliefs and self-talk
• Healing emotional trauma from past experiences
• Restoring a positive outlook for the future
EMDR is non-invasive, has no side effects and is appropriate for people of all ages. It’s ideal for those who have been unsuccessful in managing their symptoms with medications or therapy and who seek a more natural approach to treatment. EMDR was selected by the armed services as the primary treatment modality for returning veterans suffering from PTSD and other traumas. Additionally, the World Health Organization recommends EMDR for treating patients with PTSD.
Individuals considering EMDR don’t need to consult with a medical professional before beginning treatment. Not all services are offered at each Amen Clinics location. Call us today at 888-288-9834 or visit our website to schedule a visit.