Preparing for Pregnancy: The Importance of Prenatal Counseling
The transition to parenthood can bring with it a mixed bag of emotions. Everything from joy to anxiety can crop up in preparation for and with a growing baby bump.
Prenatal counseling provides a safe space for mom-to-be to talk about the concerns that aren’t always talked about before or during pregnancy. It’s a chance for a woman to sort through any conflicting emotions and bolster her mental wellness with supportive care.
“Planning for a pregnancy is an exciting time, but it can also be rather overwhelming,” explains Molly McStravick, M.D., obstetrician/gynecologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Rockwall and Texas Health Women’s Care, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice. “As she prepares for pregnancy or birth, a woman may worry about her capacity to put another human being’s needs before her own and experience fear about her body’s ability to survive childbirth. Prenatal counseling is important to reduce the risk of adverse health effects during pregnancy by working with the woman to optimize her health, address modifiable risk factors and provide education about what a healthy pregnancy should look like. But it’s not just for soon-to-be moms. It’s also great for partners and for families with other children in tow.”
The Pre-pregnancy Appointment
Before even trying to get pregnant, McStravick recommends a woman schedule a prenatal appointment for her, or her and her partner. During the initial visit, the OB/GYN will look to identify any concerns that need to be addressed or that may cause complications while you are trying to conceive. Here, you can make sure you and your partner are on the same page before you undertake your pregnancy journey.
Although expectant parents attend prenatal counseling for all sorts of reasons, here are some things that may be addressed or supported during counseling:
How and when to stop birth control, proper nutrition in preparation for baby, risks associated with a pre-existing health condition and weight are a few considerations to be discussed. This is the opportunity for you to also learn about methods to maximize fertility, including timing and frequency of intercourse, especially if there have been past struggles with infertility.
Stress and expectations
Counseling can help you sift through all of the information on how to do motherhood, and put in perspective any images you may have of the “perfect” mother.
“A woman and her partner need to understand that there is no perfect way to parent,” says McStravick. “This is a good time for us to assess parenting styles so both parties get a feel for how their child may be disciplined, if there are differing views on child care and more.”
Anxiety and depression
For some women, the normal worries and ups-and-downs of pregnancy can result in prenatal anxiety or depression that may be a predictor of postpartum depression. Counseling provides a means for screening for mental health concerns early on, and helping a woman to learn coping strategies and lifestyle changes that can make a big difference.
“Although every prenatal plan I create looks a bit different, it may include educating partners about what’s normal and what’s concerning in regards to mental health, and guidance on helpful ways to support one’s significant other during the journey,” McStravick adds.
Individuals, couples or families known to have an increased chance of having a child with a birth defect or genetic condition may choose prenatal counseling to learn more about the condition of concern, understand their risks more clearly, and discuss options for prenatal screening, testing and/or assisted reproduction techniques. Counseling is appropriate as well for families who do not have an increased chance of having a child with a birth defect or genetic condition to understand prenatal screening and testing options such as blood tests and ultrasounds.
Are you and your partner ready for the extra expenses of diapers, baby food and day care? These are expenses that can quickly add up once baby arrives. During a prenatal counseling session, you can get support in working through financial decisions so there are not surprises when baby comes.
Find the Mother in You
Counseling doesn’t have to be extensive to be effective, McStravick points out. The intent is to help parents recognize the resources and skills they already have to bring into their pregnancy and parenting. “It’s very rewarding to see a woman’s fears and uncertainties fade as she realizes she can do this motherhood thing.”
To find an OB/GYN or learn about prenatal counseling services available through Texas Health, visit Women’s Health. Download the Pregnancy Planning Guide for tips and information to manage your pregnancy.