Self-Care and Relationships from Preconception through the first year of parenting

Updated: Feb 22


What is self-care? Self-care, defined by the World Health Organization, is "the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability or without the support of a healthcare provider." Often, the preconception stage through Parenting can be overwhelming and stressful for the expecting parents, families, caregivers, and support team. Can we talk about being in the middle of a pandemic too? Many changes impact the birthing person, their family, and partner both physically, relationally, socially, and emotionally.


Many mental health and wellness providers support the emotional changes from Preconception through Early Parenting. Caring for yourself, friends, and family during this time may help you manage, cope and thrive during these life changes. That is why this month's focus is on promoting self-care and support and preparing those experiencing the numerous changes during pregnancy and postpartum. Some ideas of self-care that you can incorporate into your routine are getting adequate sleep, journaling, meditating, planning date nights, and going for walks. Keep reading to learn more about the tools to best care for yourself and your relationships!




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Let's learn about some of providers that support Self-care and relationship from preconception through the first year of parenting. During pregnancy and postpartum, there are a variety of providers that can help improve and support self-care and relationships. Some of these providers are Marriage Family Therapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Psychologists, and those with a PMH-C certification ( Perinatal Mental Health Certification). Other professional providers and services that support the whole person include yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, physical therapy, fitness coach/instructor, nutritionist, chiropractic care, doulas, and many more. These providers have experience providing coping mechanisms, support, and resources, which help to improve outcomes.


Asking for help and talking to therapists can be crucial for many throughout their pregnancy, especially in postpartum months. It is common for people to experience fears, worries, and stress when becoming new parents. One place to learn more about birth and wellness professionals, including mental health support, is visiting our website centralcoastchildbirthnetwork.com. Another great resource is reading through our past blog Mental Metamorphosis of Pregnancy and Postpartum.

You are not alone in feeling this way; in fact, according to Postpartum support international and Healthline:

  • "15 to 20% of women experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety.

  • "a wealth of research shows that 10% of new dads experience paternal postpartum depression (50% when mom is depressed!)."

  • "About 80 percent of postpartum mothers have the baby blues, which refer to a short period after giving birth that's filled with bouts of sadness, anxiety, stress, and mood swings."

You can learn more about specific Perinatal Mental Health Mood and Anxiety Disorders and get additional support for yourself, partners, and caregivers, by visiting a fantastic virtual resource Postpartum Support International!

Many of these providers work in a variety of settings. Many providers who offer physical, emotional, and informational support work in various settings, including private practice, gyms, hospitals, private residences, and even gatherings in local parks. We've made it easy to find birth and wellness providers on the Central Coast through the CCCN member directory and additional listed resources on our website. The CCCN Member Provider Directory will give you lists of the providers who are #cccnmembers in our area to connect. These birth and wellness providers can assist you during your self-care journey in pregnancy through parenting and navigating the shifts occurring in your relationships. You can also find additional resources for Prenatal and Postpartum care here: SLO County, Northern Santa Barbara County.


Let's see what the evidence tells us. There are countless ways to improve your mental health, self-care abilities, and mindfulness that are beneficial to you and those around you. There is encouraging evidence that self-care practices have a positive impact on your life during pregnancy and work to support your most important relationships. Activities such as yoga, journaling, meditation, prove to

  • "A prenatal yoga program results in benefits during pregnancy as well as throughout labour and on birth outcomes" (Curtis, K. et.al., 2012).

  • "Research has confirmed a myriad of health benefits associated with the practice of meditation. These include stress reduction, decreased anxiety, decreased depression, reduction in pain (both physical and psychological), improved memory, and increased efficiency" (Sharma H., 2015).

  • "Journaling can increase self-awareness, enhance learning, and foster the development of critical thinking as well as facilitate one's curiosity, self-development, and empowerment" (Lasater, & Nielsen, 2009).

  • "Teaching self-care to mothers who are at risk for preterm birth can reduce the incidence of preterm birth" (Rezaeean, 2020).

  • "Adverse postpartum complications can be eliminated by increasing self-care abilities in postpartum women" (Ghiasvand et. al., 2017).

  • "Experts agree that therapy can be an effective way to help monitor a woman's mental health, note shifts in her mood and anxiety, and ensure that she gets additional support as needed both during pregnancy and after delivery" (Good therapy).

  • "Psychological treatments for PPD are often the treatment of choice for women, as they are effective for the treatment of depressive symptoms and do not involve the risks of exposure to medications." (Fitelsom, 2010).


Anticipating needing support and resources. Anytime is a great time to start self-care practices and improve your relationships! Therapy can especially be helpful to seek out for anyone entering pregnancy for consistent unbiased support throughout and a baseline when entering the first year after birth. Finding peer support groups or a mental health provider during the first year after birth can be helpful as your friendships, relationship with your partner, and family shift and change. In fact, "some research found parenthood was associated with decreased marriage quality, increased marital conflict, more severe symptoms of depression, and decreased marital satisfaction" (Kowal, Marta et al. 2021). Other changes and shifts that can occur are less one on one time with friends and partners, increased stressors, differences in social circles, priority changes, and more. Prioritizing self-care for partners and pregnant individuals by checking in, joining a support group, asking others for help, verbal affirmations, sleep, and exercise to name a few is important. It can also help make these adjustments during this time more manageable.


There can be barriers to accessing care and services. There are many benefits to creating space for self-care and mental health improvements during pregnancy. At the same time, there are some barriers to practicing self-care and improving relationships. Reaching these services and providers in our county may seem unrealistic due to challenges including:

  • Cost

  • Work-life balance

  • Time

  • Lack of providers in certain areas

  • Language Barriers

  • COVID-19

  • Insurance vs. out of pocket cost

  • Transportation

However, some services are covered by insurance, health spending accounts, low-cost or free. Additionally, telehealth and virtual fitness classes can cut down on the cost of transportation time conflicts and reduce COVID-19 exposures. Throughout the pandemic, providers in our community have gotten creative with teaching classes outdoors, at parks, or even in your backyard!


Overall, we know that it can be daunting and challenging to face the many changes you and your loved ones are going through on top of caring for another human and in the middle of a global pandemic! Please do not feel afraid to seek help from birth and wellness providers and resources. Give yourself permission to take some time to care for yourself and your relationships each day. We know how stressful this time is and are here to support you. You are not alone!

You may find it helpful to check out our social media pages on Instagram and Facebook this month for more self-care tips. Additional valuable support and resources available through our organization on the Central Coast from Preconception through the first year of Parenting you can find on our website including community events calendar & outreach, local and web resources, blog, newsletter, and so much more! And join us for our first In-person, since the Pandemic, Central Coast Birth, Baby, Family and Wellness EXPO on May 14th, 2022. Get the details here!



Disclaimer: The opinions or beliefs expressed by various authors on this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of Central Coast Childbirth Network, INC. Central Coast Childbirth Network, INC does not offer medical advice. The content on this blog is for informational purposes only. The author's opinions are based upon information they consider reliable; thus, Central Coast Childbirth Network warrants its completeness or accuracy and should not be relied upon as such.


Authored in collaboration with:

Alana Krull, CCCN Intern

Zabrina Cox, CtP Program Director


Sources:

  • PSI

  • WHO

  • Healthline

  • Good Therapy

  • Curtis, K., Weinrib, A., & Katz, J. (2012). Systematic review of yoga for pregnant women: current status and future directions. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2012, 715942. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/715942

  • Fitelson, E., Kim, S., Baker, A. S., & Leight, K. (2010). Treatment of postpartum depression: clinical, psychological and pharmacological options. International journal of women's health, 3, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.2147/IJWH.S6938

  • Ghiasvand, F., Riazi, H., Hajian, S., Kazemi, E., & Firoozi, A. (2017). The effect of a self-care program based on the teach back method on the postpartum quality of life. Electronic physician, 9(4), 4180–4189. https://doi.org/10.19082/4180

  • Kowal, M., Groyecka-Bernard, A., Kochan-Wójcik, M., & Sorokowski, P. (2021). When and how does the number of children affect marital satisfaction? An international survey. PloS one, 16(4), e0249516. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0249516

  • Lasater, K., & Nielsen, A. (2009). Reflective journaling for clinical judgment development and evaluation. The Journal of nursing education, 48(1), 40–44. https://doi.org/10.3928/01484834-20090101-06Sharma H. (2015). Meditation: Process and effects. Ayu, 36(3), 233–237. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-8520.182756





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