“Pregnancy is a time of great change and not all of it is positive,” says Rachel Tomlinson, Registered Psychologist and Clinical Manager at My Mirror, an online psychology service.

“For many women it’s a wonderful experience, but for many others it’s not. There’s a lot of pressure and societal expectations on women to look or feel a particular way when pregnant. You might experience stress associated with your physical health or changes in your body, or financial stress and strain. And your sense of self can be impacted – in positive and challenging ways – as you consider the role of motherhood, the work-life juggle and changes in the dynamic of your romantic relationship, too. Plus, there may be specific mental health concerns too.”

 

What do mums-to-be typically seek help for?

Tomlinson says while every woman and pregnancy is unique, there are common challenges you may experience during pregnancy, including:

  • Fear of being a good mum
  • Breaking unhelpful parenting patterns (wanting to raise your child differently to how you were raised)
  • Changes in intimacy with your partner
  • Communication issues and learning to negotiate and navigate change with your partner
  • Worries about a lack of bond with your unborn baby
  • Managing previous perinatal losses
  • The stress or challenge of an unplanned pregnancy
  • Fear of childbirth, antenatal depression or anxiety

 

And if you’re a new parent… why might you need a psychologist?

Anyone who’s had a baby knows that it can be a massive learning curve – and the post-partum period can throw up a range of issues you need to help to process, from dealing with a traumatic birth experience to experiencing shifts in your relationship, says Tomlinson.

“You might also be struggling to adjust to your new responsibilities, lack of previous freedom or you may be triggered by past traumas – during the birth itself, breastfeeding or just being touched constantly. Again, some women experience mental health conditions like postpartum depression, anxiety or psychosis.” 

 

Let’s talk about sex, baby (or the lack of it)

Most parents out there will know that a bubba can easily chuck a bomb into a previously very happy relationship – and this is absolutely normal, says Tomlinson.

“Babies can bring so much joy but also challenges,” she explains. “If there were cracks in your relationship before, those can be exacerbated after the baby arrives, or you might find brand new, unexpected issues arise.” 

Some of these issues may pop up due to just being exhausted and overwhelmed, but it’s worth remembering that the dynamic between you can also change dramatically due to intimacy issues, Tomlinson adds. “You might not have as much time one on one as a couple, or you might feel differently after giving birth, and resentment is possible from either side. Along with all the tricky decisions you need to make as parents, you’ll need to navigate a new way of being together.”

 

Is seeing a psychologist online a good option?

It can be, not least because you don’t need to leave the house! All you need is a laptop and the internet – and your psychologist may be okay with your child being present during the session.

“The concept of telehealth and telepsychology is still relatively new – but new research shows it’s just as, if not more effective than face-to-face therapy,” says Tomlinson. “This is partly because it’s easier to access, and there’s more choice, so you can find a psychologist who’s a good match for you and the issues you need to address, rather than just seeing whoever’s closest to you.”

If you’ve tried to reach out for help in the past few years, you may have hit a brick wall – because demand soared during the pandemic. In 2022, an APS review found that 1 in 3 psychologists weren’t open to seeing new clients (prior to the pandemic, this number was 1 in 100). This is where telehealth can really offer a lifeline to women who need help. “And if you need to talk to someone, the sooner you do it, the better,” says Tomlinson.

 

So… how do you know you need to see someone?

When you’re in the trenches with a little one, you know the drill: there’s little sleep, lots of breastfeeding, even more sterilising, changing so many nappies you lose count… and just trying to make it through the day without microwaving your cup of tea more than once.

So how can you know that you actually need professional help from a trained psychologist, or if you should just hang in there and hold on to that old saying, ‘This too shall pass’?

“Baby blues are a normal phenomenon,” says Tomlinson, “but if you have low mood, irritability, difficulty sleeping, loss of enjoyment in things and appetite changes for longer than two weeks, it could be an indication that you have symptoms of postpartum depression. Again, worries are normal, but if your worries last longer than two weeks or are uncontrollable, or you feel panic, intrusive or obsessive thoughts, or behaviours, that could be an indicator of anxiety. And if you’re experiencing intrusive or distressing thoughts or having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby this should be immediately addressed.”

 

Where can you find help and what does it cost?

The cost for a session can vary significantly depending on whether you see a counsellor, registered psychologist or clinical psychologist. As a rough guide, expect to pay between $100-300/session.

A mental health care treatment plan from your GP can help keep costs down too, says Tomlinson. “You’ll receive up to 10 sessions per calendar year with the psychologist, and you’ll pay a gap and get rebates of $92.90 for general psychologists and $136.35 for clinical psychologists.”

“There are also many places you can seek help from psychologists who offer telehealth and specialise in fertility, antenatal and postnatal support, as well as couples counselling and relationship issues,” says Tomlinson. “My Mirror offers a client matching tool to help find the right psychologist who is available at the right time, and they offer mental health treatment plan rebate sessions and bulk billing for those who meet the criteria.”

Here are some other resources you can reach out to for support / education:

 

By Rachel Smith