Online Therapy For Pregnant & New Moms
In the past decade and what I now call typical times, many of the pregnant and new moms I have worked with utilized remote counseling (also called online therapy or teletherapy), as it allowed them access expert help from a maternal mental health specialist without worrying about driving a long distance or weather conditions.
When you have a newborn, the unpredictability of the baby’s schedule, nursing and your physical recovery or tiredness may mean that getting out of the house to an office appointment can be difficult and teletherapy means that you can get that extra support at the time you are most likely to need it.
Because we are in the middle of a global pandemic, these are not typical times! No woman who became pregnant in the last few months, or gave birth recently, expected to be facing social distancing or the fear and uncertainty Covid-19 has brought and now remote sessions are a necessity not an option.
Becoming a parent is one of the most life-changing transitions you will experience and research over the past two decades has shown that typically 1 in 5 (20%) new moms will experience pregnancy and/or postpartum anxiety or depression and approximately 5-9% of women will experience postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following childbirth.
We don’t know the statistics yet, but I think the uncertainty, isolation and stress that has accompanied Covid-19, will mean a much greater percentage of women will experiencing anxiety, depression or trauma symptoms. What I do know though, is that when moms are supported, they have a much easier time navigating the challenges of pregnancy and early motherhood.
Currently many pregnant and new moms are struggling with these questions:
How am I going to cope with the added stress and uncertainty of being a new mom during a pandemic?
Is social distancing going to affect my support and leave me isolated?
I am typically an anxious person, but how am I going to cope now my anxiety is through the roof?
How am I going to cope if my labor experience isn’t how I expected it to be?
Whether you need a few sessions to help the transition, or perhaps longer treatment due to a prior history of anxiety or depression, or a traumatic delivery, it certainly can help to work with a professional who understands how treatment of maternal mental health issues are different from treating general anxiety and depression.
You are not alone in going through this and I know how to empower you by providing short-term, solution focused therapy to develop your coping strategies and process the difficult, conflicting emotions you may be experiencing.
Therapy provides a means of helping you gain a different perspective and insight about what you are experiencing and Cognitive Therapy (CBT) gives you the tools to manage overwhelming emotions.
The important thing at the moment is that you are carving out some time to look after your own mental health. During times of stress, you are more able to deal with your own stress or issues with your family or spouse, if you take time for your own self-care.
But Is Remote Therapy An Effective Treatment For New Moms?
Although I have been working with pregnant and postpartum women for 25 years, I only started thinking about offering remote therapy about 10 years ago. I found that because there weren’t enough therapists who had specialist training and experience treating maternal mental health issues, I was getting contacted by women from all over the state, many who traveled over an hour or more each way to see me. That is when I began looking for research studies that showed postpartum depression can be equally effectively using online therapy.
One of the first studies I found was a British study that showed the women who received the remote counseling for postpartum depression reported better results for depression and anxiety scores immediately after they had received the treatment as well as six months after treatment. The study lead researcher, Dr. Heather O’Mahen, said that the results (published in the journal Psychological Medicine), indicated that internet-based treatment had a positive effect in reducing postpartum depression as a whole and because it provided support in their homes it was convenient allowing them to complete a course of therapy. She added: “Our hope is that this will allow more women to access and benefit from support, with all the knock-on positives that come from that: happier families, improved quality of life for moms”.
More recently, the American Psychological Association (APA) published an article stating that research demonstrates that psychotherapy delivered via the phone is as effective as the care delivered in person. A review of 13 studies found significant reductions in symptoms of anxiety and depression when therapy was provided via telephone (Coughtrey and Pistrang, 2018) and the World Journal of Psychiatry concluded that there is a large evidence base that supports teletherapy being as effective as in office therapy.
In addition to the research on postpartum depression and teletherapy, I have found that pregnant moms experience the same rates of depression and anxiety as postpartum moms and remote therapy is also effective during pregnancy as it can be very helpful to develop coping strategies to deal with anxiety before the baby arrives. Both pregnancy and postpartum anxiety and depression are very common and treatable. I do want to stress that whether support is provided remotely or in my office when social distancing is over, you don’t have to go through this alone.
Is Remote Therapy Confidential & Private?
Yes! At the moment I am conducting remote sessions from my home office which is in a separate area from the rest of my family so no one can overhear or interrupt our sessions. When we are no longer sheltering in place, I also conduct remote sessions from my Northbrook office.
I use a HIPAA compliant video conferencing platform that can work on wifi or cellular data, which means it enables my clients to find a way to talk to me in whatever way they can, whether it is a place in their house where they won’t be disturbed (I don’t mind if the only place you can get a bit of privacy at the moment is in your bathroom or closet!) or they sit in their car in their garage or parking lot or go out for a walk. We will find a way that works best for you!
Is Remote Therapy Covered By Insurance?
Although there are some variations depending what policy you have, most healthcare insurance plans provide coverage for teletherapy in the same way they cover in-office therapy. I am out of network with all insurance companies and you can read more about my fees and how out of network insurance works, including questions to ask your insurance company before you start therapy on this page Dr. Allen’s Fees and Out of Network Insurance.
Other articles by Dr. Allen you may be interested in:
If you want to read more about maternal mental health download the FREE Guide To Pregnancy & Postpartum Stress, Anxiety & Depression. It is full of information about symptoms, different types of maternal mood disorders and advice about what to do to start feeling like yourself again.
Dr. Sarah Allen has 25 years experience as a psychologist empowering women as they transition through pregnancy and being a new mom, whether it is your first or not. She is also the Director of the Postpartum Depression Alliance of IL, a non-profit offering info and support to pregnant and postpartum moms and their families.
She offers telephone or online counseling as they are the most convenient way for pregnant and new moms to access support and help. Unfortunately, Dr. Allen’s professional license only allows her to work with IL residents.
If you have questions after reading this article or the Guide To Pregnancy & Postpartum Stress, Anxiety & Depression or have any questions about how counseling can be useful to your particular circumstances please contact me at 847 791-7722 or on the form below.