While it can sometimes seem like every other parent is doing a perfect job and you’re alone in struggling—thanks, Instagram—in reality, parenthood is hard. An estimated one in seven new moms will experience postpartum depression in the year after giving birth, and one in ten will deal with postpartum anxiety.
“Becoming a parent can be an exciting and happy time, but also one that’s daunting and unexpected,” says Maven Mental Health Provider Cynthia Coffelt. “That’s especially true during the first few months when lifestyle changes coupled with sleep deprivation and fluctuating hormones can cause significant changes in mood.” So what’s it actually like to see a postpartum therapist? Here’s what you should know.
You might feel guilty or ashamed, but try to let go of those feelings.
Postpartum anxiety and depression are very common—and very treatable. Feeling guilty or ashamed won’t help you get well faster. Even still, seeing a therapist for the first time to address postpartum anxiety or depression can feel very overwhelming. “Many people associate therapy with ‘failure’ or not being able to ‘manage it all,’ but I encourage you to reframe this,” says Coffelt. "You’re promoting your own mental health and well-being.”
During your first appointment, you’ll probably be asked to share a lot.
When meeting with a therapist for the first time, they may ask questions to better understand your unique situation and encourage you to share more about your experience. “Your therapist may explore symptoms, ask about your support network, and offer resources to help guide you through this process,” says Coffelt. “It's most important that you’re comfortable with the provider and feel safe discussing these intimate aspects of your life.” Don’t be surprised if the first appointment feels a little clinical. Your provider may start by asking you to share a bit about your background and mental health history. It’s normal to feel a little uncomfortable sharing at first, but remember that postpartum depression and anxiety are common, and your therapist has likely seen patients like you before.
The therapist should validate your feelings and hear your concerns—and you don’t need to know exactly what’s “wrong” to ask for help.
You also might not have a name for the problem you’re trying to solve. Your therapist should help you understand that what you’re feeling is normal and give you tools to manage the different feelings you experience as they come up. Your therapist should show compassion for your situation, treat you with respect, approach your issues without judgment, and communicate clearly with you about treatment options and next steps.
Your therapist will recommend some next steps.
There are a variety of options for moving forward. Some therapists may recommend ongoing therapy, medication, couples counseling, or other options. The “right” path depends on your own preferences and goals.
“For some, the act of sharing openly can be incredibly freeing in and of itself,” Coffelt says. “And for others may want to leave a session with concrete tools to help manage changes in mood or to cope better with life's daily stressors. Goal-setting can be helpful in guiding the therapeutic process. Together, you can establish milestones to work toward as a way to measure progress in your care.”
If you didn’t love your provider, you can always switch to another one.
“Styles of practice may vary, so be mindful of finding a practitioner who resonates with you,” Coffelt says. “Don't be afraid to ask questions or guide the treatment in a different direction if it's not meeting your needs. It should be an open and collaborative experience. You should emerge feeling better and hopeful for the future.”
If the first session doesn’t feel quite “right,” it’s totally up to you whether you want to switch right away or stick with the same provider for a few sessions. Sometimes it can take a while to get comfortable with someone.
How Maven supports members during the postpartum period
If you’re struggling during the postpartum period, you’re not alone. And talking to a mental health provider can be the first step towards feeling like yourself again. If you need help finding a provider, your Maven Care Advocate can help you understand what your insurance covers, and locate a few providers who meet your requirements. Plus, Maven Mental Health Providers are available for support when you need it. Sign up for access to Maven today.
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