We know that women experiencing a high-risk pregnancy are at higher risk for antepartum depression than women experiencing a low-risk pregnancy. And that the rates of depression are higher among NICU parents than non-NICU parents. What we also know is that a body that is in survival mode a long time cannot sustain being in fight or flight indefinitely. This is what often happens when you’re fighting for your baby’s life during a high-risk pregnancy or in the NICU.
In those instances, the nervous system goes into what we call "shut down" or "freeze".
The body is still under tremendous stress when in freeze/shut down; however, instead of experiencing this stress as hypervigilance, inability to sit still, overwhelming thoughts, etc., women experience it as feeling hopeless, helpless, disconnected & numbed out. (Check out this This is Trauma post for more on this.)
Let that sink in for a moment.
It looks and feels a lot like depression, but it is often not clinical depression. It is your brain trying to keep you alive. Most of my clients who feel this way have found that traditional treatments for depression do not help. This is because this is not a mood issue but a matter of nervous system dysregulation. This cluster of symptoms that is often misdiagnosed for depression improve significantly when we're able to restore safety in the body & re-regulate the nervous system back to baseline. This has tremendously positive consequences for pregnancy health, protecting you from exacerbating existing & developing new pregnancy complications. Details of how this is possible are referenced in Pregnancy Brain.
It can even reverse many chronic illnesses such as chronic pain and autoimmune diseases that we common find in NICU parents. When we can re-regulate our nervous system and feel safe in our bodies again that is when we can feel joy again. If you're pregnant, my 1:1 program will teach you how to reduce your risk of complications by teaching you nervous system regulation techniques that actually have a lasting impact on your health beyond just deep breathing.
If you're not pregnant, The Whole Story can teach you how to re-regulate your nervous system and feel safe in your body again so you can heal from everything you've been through.