Falling pregnant – whether you’ve been trying to conceive for years or you’re shocked to high hell about it – can bring up a bunch of emotions. Despair at how this pregnancy will change your body. Stress about how you’ll cope financially. Or just blatant overwhelming joy. Maybe all of the above and more. Anything goes, really.
Being pregnant is tough work. We can’t stress that enough. It’s why you might want to seriously consider pregnancy counselling.
“But I already have so many prenatal appointments to go to!”
I hear you, I hear you. The pregnancy admin is intense. All the more reason to offload your worries and feelings on someone trained to support pregnant women!
So here’s why pregnancy (or prenatal) counselling can be so genuinely helpful.
What is pregnancy counselling?
Pregnancy counselling is the opportunity to discuss your concerns or feelings about your pregnancy with a qualified healthcare professional – like a psychologist, mental health nurse or social worker.
Can’t you just chat it out with your obstetrician or GP? Yes, but remember, your maternity care team is there to focus on the overall physical health of you and your baby – not so much the mindf*ck that is being pregnant and transforming into a mother. Legit prenatal counselling gets into the nitty gritty of your mental health, emotions, fears, and anxieties. The good stuff.
So do you need it? I mean… probably. It can’t hurt. (Some experts even argue that pregnancy counselling should be mandatory!)
Reasons to get counselling during pregnancy
So many reasons.
Counselling during pregnancy might benefit you if you:
- Struggle with body image – because there’s no way of avoiding the fact that your beautiful, incredible body is about to change dramatically (and get even more epic, quite frankly).
- Are stressed AF – Whether that’s down to normal life stress (exacerbated by pregnancy), you’re battling a health condition or pregnancy complication, work is full on, money is tight, or you’re on edge after experiencing fertility struggles or miscarriage.
- Are scared of giving birth – This is a common one! A birth class is one great way to learn the details of labour and birth so you know what to expect. But pregnancy counselling can also help prepare you mentally for this momentous, but wildly normal, life experience.
- Feel your relationship getting strained – Pregnancy and parenthood can put a lot of pressure on couples. You’re hormonal, they’re stressed out, and everyone can forget how to communicate.
- Feel guilt, shame or blame – Pregnant mums are under an enormous amount of pressure to do all the right things. Eat the perfect pregnancy diet, do prenatal yoga, look cute in maternity skirts, etc. It’s normal to come undone a bit when you’re faced with all the things you ‘should’ be doing. (Spoiler: You don’t need to do all those things.)
- Have (or have had) mental health issues – Pregnancy, postpartum and parenting can push alll the wrong buttons for your mental health, causing anxiety, depression and other conditions to spiral. Prenatal counselling is a great way to bolster your mental health (even if you’re feeling good right now!), so you can stay emotionally solid into your postpartum and beyond.
- Have past trauma – Whether that’s pregnancy loss or a previous traumatic birth experience, going through it again can be mega scary.
- Weren’t planning to get pregnant – Pregnancy can sometimes come as an unwelcome shock, leaving you totally unsure of what to do. Chatting to a psychologist with expertise in prenatal counselling can help you work through the process of deciding whether to go ahead with the pregnancy or not, and adjust to new expectations. (Just be aware, not all psychologists are unbiased when it comes to your pregnancy options.)
Who is prenatal counselling for?
Everyone affected by the pregnancy!
- First time mums.
- Mums with other children.
- Key supporters of a pregnant woman (AKA your hype crew).
How Medicare can help
Little known fact: The Australian Government subsidises up to three pregnancy counselling services for people who are currently pregnant or have been pregnant in the last 12 months.
So if you think you might benefit from a prenatal counselling session or two, ask your GP for a referral. Eligible practitioners need to have completed non-directive pregnancy counselling training (meaning, they know how to support you without telling you how to live your life). Just make sure you ask about Medicare rebates before you book an appointment, because not all counselling services offer it. And please do read all the rules and exceptions over on The Department of Health website.
Another great resource to be aware of is the government-funded Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline. You can call 1800 882 436 to speak to an expert, and get transferred to a psychologist for support. They might also direct you to other pregnancy counselling support services if needed. A handy one to keep up your sleeve!
Where to go for pregnancy counselling in Sydney
Local Sydney mums, we’ve rounded up the best pregnancy counselling options in the area (kindly saving you a ‘pregnancy counselling near me’ search). Check these out.
Location: Offices in Baulkham Hills, Gosford, Sydney CBD, and also serving South Sydney, the Macquarie Fields, and Penrith areas.
Women facing an unplanned pregnancy with no idea WTF to do.
Diamond Women is a pregnancy support centre that exists to help women during the perinatal period of an unplanned pregnancy. Their aim is to reduce the occurrence of mental health disorders by providing safe and non-judgemental prenatal counselling.
Location: Manly on Sydney’s Northern Beaches
Women and men needing support anywhere from pre-pregnancy, up to three years after their baby’s birth.
Nurture & Bloom Psychology is a private practice run by registered psychologist Louella. She can support parents with a variety of pregnancy counselling services to help them cope with depression and anxiety, birth trauma, attachment issues, parenting and relationship issues.
Location: Heathcote East, Sutherland Shire
Women wanting a more holistic approach to pregnancy counselling, with a focus on spiritual healing – maybe with a prenatal massage to boot!
Belle Flowers is a mother of three with a lot of nifty skills available to pregnant women. One of them is prenatal counselling. Her approach is more spiritual (read: “unconventional”) than most, and may be useful when combined with her specialised pregnancy massages. Lush!
Location: Sydney-based, but is (at time of writing) currently only offering TeleHealth appointments.
Mums-to-be struggling with mood disorders, trauma, or adjustment to life as a parent.
Lisa Paul has worked as a nurse, midwife, nutritionist and mental health nurse, so she has a great understanding of the perinatal period (and how f*cking stressful it is for pregnant women!). Her pregnancy counselling services are ideal for dealing with past birth trauma, pregnancy loss, or challenges like anxiety or depression.
Location: Clinics in Norwest and Parramatta
Women experiencing fertility challenges, body image issues or eating disorders related to pregnancy, relationship issues or postnatal depression.
As a large family clinic with a team of registered psychologists and counsellors, Bridges Counselling can offer pregnancy counselling services to suit women and men at every stage of their journey into parenthood. You can review the profile of the psychologists and pick a fave, too!
6. From 2 To 3
Location: Crows Nest
Couples that want to bolster their relationship (or improve it) before baby arrives.
Ginny Lindsay, Principal Therapist at From 2 To 3, is a qualified psychotherapist and counsellor with a unique specialisation in helping couples navigate parenthood together (i.e. taking their family from 2 to 3. Clever!). Starting to hate your partner’s guts? Book. In. Now.
Not in Sydney? Check if the Centre for Perinatal Psychology has practitioners in your area. Or you can always google ‘prenatal psychologist near me’ – the old faithful. Pregnancy counselling in Australia is generally quite accessible, unless you’re seriously remote. In which case – TeleHealth is your friend!
But in all seriousness, take care of yourself mama. Physical self-care is one thing, but it’s important to protect your mind too. And if you need some laughs or a vent, you can always turn to Mumli.