Including the “Mother” in Motherhood

I have worked as a clinical psychologist in intensive inpatient and outpatient settings since 1999 with a focus on the treatment of depression, anxiety, and PTSD.  My experience and recovery from PTSD in 2010 following the birth of my daughter led me to further focus on peri/postnatal psychology, with interest on the impact of psychological trauma incurred during labor and delivery.  Studies note an increased risk of birth trauma and PTSD when mothers undergo natural birth without pain relief.  One is also at risk when unexpected procedures become necessary for the health of the mother or child.  Ultimately, any experience of helplessness and perceived trauma (i.e., “coping” with something that feels beyond one’s ability to cope) can lead to traumatic symptomatology that puts a mother at risk for postpartum depression/anxiety/PTSD.  Birth clearly has a psychological outcome in addition to the physical one.

In addition to treating depression, anxiety, and PTSD, I have come to specialize in a broad range of perinatal and postpartum conditions.  I also work with new parents carrying general parenting concerns.  I have found that many American parenting “experts” narrow their view to the psychology of the child despite the fact that relationships involve two sets of needs negotiating in a unique way.  We often fail to appreciate a mother’s psychology — her very real pain, her feelings, her needs — when we suggest one-size-fits-all recommendations for hot topics like breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and “crying it out”.   Paying better attention to a mother’s psychology is a first step in reducing hardship.

My professional aim overall is to reduce the unnecessary judgement of mothers and to broaden the understanding of what accounts for “healthy” postpartum parenting.  My private practice work is dedicated to each individual’s personal recovery or parenting journey  outside of any ideology or judgemental parenting expertise.

Boukje Eerkens, Psy.D., QME