In my experience of working with pregnant couples and new parents, I find that certain factors predict conflict, depression and anxiety postnatally. These clinical observations are backed up in the scientific literature. When I work with expecting or new parents, one of my goals is to help them think about topics that need airing. Often people expect that their partner is on the same page, and it’s only afterwards that they realise how different their views are. Sometimes the couple is aligned on important points but later discover that their extended families are not. Talking about these topics ahead of time can reduce the likelihood of postnatal depression, postnatal anxiety and conflict in both men and women.
- Birth: Who will be at the birth and what you would like those present to do.
- Visitors: Who will come, when and for how long. Perhaps you decide that you don’t have any visitors for the first two weeks or perhaps you’d welcome the support of key people. Make sure you’re aligned on the number of visitors and duration.
- Finances: How will finances be managed, will there be a change in income as a result of one member of the couple not working, and if so, how will you ensure both of you have access to money. How will you manage the increased outgoings, will you save for the child’s future.
- Parental leave: How much time will each of you take off.
- Fears: It’s really important to be open about what you’re worried about, so you can support each other in this. Perhaps one of you is feeling vulnerable about being dependent on the other for the first time, perhaps one of you is anxious about the increased responsibility. Perhaps you’re nervous about repeating aspects of your experience of being parented. Whatever your fears, sharing your vulnerabilities and supporting each other in navigating them helps bring you closer together.
- Change: How do you anticipate your lives changing as a result of having a child. How will you embrace or manage these changes?
- Roles: Who will do what. When the working parent is home, will they be given free rein to parent their way or will there be an expectation to follow the routine established by the stay at home parent?
- Parenting. What broad approach will you take to parenting? Baby-led, attachment-based, routine-driven….?
- Language: If you’re from different countries of origin you may well have a number of languages to impart upon your child. How will this be done? Will you agree a shared language and each speaks to your child in your mother tongue? Will there be rules about not speaking in a language not understood by one parent?
- Help: Will you use the services of a maid or nanny? If so, how will you arrange this – prior to delivery or afterwards? Full time or on an agency basis?
- Intimacy: Desire for sex is likely to change – how will you manage each other’s expectations so neither feels unloved or not important?
- Rest: How will you arrange things so the stay at home parent and working parent each has some downtime?
Dr. Marie Thompson, Clinical Psychologist