CBT and Post Natal Depression
Coping with a new baby
The arrival of your first baby is supposed to be one of the happiest times in your life and the ultimate expression of the union of your relationship. While some people feel this way, both the physical and emotional issues like the exhaustion, physical and emotional demands on you and your relationship leave others feeling pretty low. Some people may even develop post-natal depression, for which Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the recommended therapy according to NICE.
CBT and the joy and pain
For many people, having their first child is an exhilarating experience. But along with the joy, there is a whole raft of radical changes to your life which you may not find so joyous. In fact, you might even feel depressed and not able to cope with your new life. There is a constant demand for feeding, changing and soothing this new creature who is completely unable to care for themselves. There is the exhaustion of the birth itself and the interrupted nights as the baby needs to be fed, winded and changed. CBT can help you manage your expectations and your behaviours better and enjoy this time more.
CBT and Exhaustion
It is completely normal to feel exhausted when you are looking after a new baby. Remind yourself that it is normal and do not agree to do more than you can manage. Rope in as much help as you can from other people – relatives and friends – so that you can have a break. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy encourages you to tell people around you about what you are experiencing and that you need their support. If necessary, go to bed when the baby does, even if it’s at 7 pm, so that you get a chance to catch up on sleep. Let relatives or friends play with the baby or take him/her out for a walk so that you can lie down for 20 minutes.
It is a common myth, that having a baby will solve problems in a relationship by bringing the couple together. In reality, looking after a baby takes up so much time and energy that it simply adds to any problems that already exist. Some couples see a therapist for CBT for couples during the pregnancy acknowledging the challenges that will come in a positive way.
New fathers and other partners of new mothers frequently complain that they can feel shut out by their female partners, who seem so absorbed by the baby that they have no time for their husband or boyfriend. To some extent, it is necessary for you to focus on the baby who cannot look after themselves. However, by letting your partner take over bottle-feeding, nappy changing and winding wherever possible, you will allow him to be more involved in a relationship with your child and to share more with you.
Some new (and not so new) mothers become obsessed by doing everything right for the baby and not allowing the father (or others) to take care of the baby for fear of them doing something wrong. But by doing everything yourself, you are adding to your exhaustion, undermining your partner and putting a rift into your relationship. CBT encourages the two of you to talk together about how you feel and how you might help meet each other’s needs.
CBT and Sexual problems
Having a baby puts a strain on all couple relationships and often their sex life is the first thing to go. At first, the new mother needs time to recover physically and is often advised to avoid intercourse until the check-up six weeks after the birth. In addition, the physical exhaustion caused by the birth and looking after the baby can leave mothers (and fathers) too tired to want to think about sex.
If the mother has had a particularly painful or difficult birth, she may fear being hurt by sexual intercourse or fear going through another pregnancy. It’s important to take things slowly and sensitively to address these issues. CBT can help eliminate any unnecessary worries obviously taking any physical issues into account.
But while it’s important to look after the baby’s needs, the couple need to look after themselves too as they adjust to this major change in both of their lives. And enjoying the sexual side of their relationship is one way of doing this. Taking measures to reduce exhaustion will help, as will asking a friend or relative to look after your baby for an afternoon or evening to give you time to yourselves.
It’s common to have the “baby blues” after the birth, but if these feelings are severe and/or go on for a long time, you may be suffering from post-natal depression. It’s important to get help if this is the case. Speak to your GP and/or health visitor and ask them to help.