prenatal psychology

Prenatal psychology is an area of psychology that looks at the psychological changes that women go through from conception to postpartum. If you’re going to better understand your fears and anxieties during pregnancy then I think understanding prenatal psychology is pretty crucial.

The journey to motherhood is one of massive change for a woman and is often accompanied by fear, insecurity, and stress. There is so much that could go wrong: preterm birth, an especially traumatic birth, problems breastfeeding, problems bonding with the baby, miscarriage, problems conceiving… gosh the list goes on!

How prenatal psychology can help

But mamas-to-be can handle their fears by drawing on ideas from prenatal psychology. Prenatal psychology can give you psychological resources for whatever may come your way: grief after a miscarriage, complicated parenting issues, bonding with their child, etc.
For me, the biggest thing I took away from prenatal psychology was getting to grips with the idea that I could consider my unborn baby as a human being from my third trimester. This represented quite a shift in my thinking and my approach to pregnancy. Once you accept that you’re carrying another human being who is able to listen, feel and hear around with you while your pregnant, then it invites some changes to your behaviour.

“By the end of the second trimester, the unborn child is a sensing, feeling and sensible (and remembering) human being.” Thomas Verny

During our chat I put these questions to Thomas;

  • What should a mother focus on during her pregnancy to improve the likelihood of a positive birth outcome?
  • What can a mother do during pregnancy to nurture the baby?
  • Can babies understand what their mothers are thinking when pregnant?
  • Do babies pick up on the emotional journey of the mother during pregnancy?
  • What are some causes of tokophobia [the extreme fear of pregnancy/birth]?
  • Does the type of birth we have – vaginal unassisted, forceps, c-section etc – have any psychological impact on us?

As you can see from these questions, they have the potential to reveal some fascinating answers, and Thomas doesn’t disappoint. I was in heaven!

Thomas starts by sharing some key factors that pregnant women should focus on during pregnancy to improve the likelihood of a positive birth outcome. These include;

  1. A desire for a child
  2. Relationship with her partner
  3. Relationship with one’s own mother
  4. Your own birth

Some people might be surprised at these because they are not things we tend to see in the typical birth prep lists alongside the more expected items like nutrition exercise or birth education. Thomas shares some interesting perspectives that are definite food for thought.

Prenatal psychology

We chat about the importance of tuning into our babies and how best to do that and Thomas shares some ways that mamas-to-be can nurture baby during pregnancy. We also discuss fertility and how stress affects fertility.

How our birth type affects our thinking

The bit that I think you’ll love though is what he has to say about our birth type, and what kind of mental and emotional patterns they can lay in place. Things like;

Forceps birth – Pain in the neck is a common theme for them. At times of stress, they will likely have pain in the head or shoulders.

C-section birth – Common thoughts will include “I can’t make it on my own”, “If I’m in a tight place, people will come to my rescue”

Breech birth – They are the most hard headed of people “It’s my way or the highway”. They don’t want to conform.

So, as you can see, this really is a fascinating chat and one that I think could really shift your perspective of your pregnancy journey.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

About Thomas Verny

Thomas R. Verny is a psychiatrist, writer and academic. He has previously taught at Harvard University, University of Toronto, York University, Toronto and St. Mary’s University Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Dr. Verny’s books, professional publications and founding of the PPPANA, now APPPAH, and the Pre- and Perinatal Journal, have established him as one of the world’s leading authorities on the effect of the prenatal and early postnatal environment on personality development. He lectures and leads workshops on Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Psychotherapy through-out Canada, the United States, Europe, South America and Southeast Asia.

Thomas Verny’s Books

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Alexia Leachman

Alexia is the host of the Fear Free Childbirth podcast and the author of Fearless Birthing, Childbirth, Midwifery & the Media, and Clear Your Head Trash.

Alexia supports families planning pregnancy and birth. She helps them to overcome their fears and feel calm and confident about birth and pregnancy.

Alexia also trains birth professionals in the Fearless Birthing, a unique approach to birth preparation that is ideal for those who have fears around birth.
Alexia Leachman
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