9 Reasons Why Parents Go to Couples Counselling After Having A Baby

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One of the frustrating realities of becoming parents is that all of a sudden your relationship faces pressures that you haven’t had to deal with in the past.

You’ve recently had a baby but now, you’re hit with the realities of the less blissful side of parenthood. There were many things you thought of before your child was born and you figured you were prepared. You thought about preparing the nursery, pre-cooking meals for those chaotic first weeks, and you even enlisted support for those sleepless first weeks postpartum. But now, you’re a little blindsided by one of the less obvious hurdles of postpartum: your relationship. 

Relationship tension is one of the biggest stressors for couples with a new baby. In fact, more than 67% of couples experience a significant drop in relationship satisfaction in the first three years of their child’s life. That’s a pretty big concern. 

It’s also an issue with a significant impact on you, your partner’s and your family’s emotional wellbeing. When many people first think of postpartum mental health, they may automatically think of things like postpartum depression, anxiety, back-to-work stress, or difficulty breastfeeding. But why are these things talked about while something as significant as relationship dissatisfaction goes largely undiscussed? 

One of the frustrating realities of becoming parents is that all of a sudden your relationship faces pressures that you haven’t had to deal with in the past: identity changes, increased stress, balancing responsibilities, mood disorders like depression or anxiety, changes in sex drive, and so many others. 

Relationship dissatisfaction and suffering in silence 

Even though this problem is so common, a lot of couples feel shame and therefore don’t speak up. This is why when your own relationship goes through a difficult time, you can be caught off guard, or feel like there’s something wrong with you. But there isn’t! If you dig into it, there are actually a lot of common issues that couples face during this transition. Many will seek counselling or professional support as a preventative measure, to address urgent issues, and learn better communication skills to be better able to solve problems going forward. 

If your relationship has been going through more challenges lately, welcome to the club. Below are some of the most common marital/relationship problems that people go to counselling for in the postpartum phase. (Never been to therapy? Here’s what to expect.)

1. There’s friction in your relationship

The arrival of a new baby brings about significant changes, both emotionally and logistically, leading to increased stress and potential conflicts. Before, you may have had less demands on your time, more time to rest and recharge, and fewer challenges to sort out together. More on the plate means stress levels run higher which is a great breeding ground for arguments or feeling snappy towards one another. 

2. You disagree on roles and responsibilities 

You may be a little taken aback by how much attention your newborn needs. From breastfeeding, to calming cries, waking during the night, diaper changes and pumping, the responsibilities can take way more time and energy than you expected. If things don’t feel evenly split (or you neglected to have that talk in the first place) resentment can build. If one partner is doing significantly more than the other, they may feel unseen, unsupported and taken for granted. 

3. You’re not on the same page

Sometimes couples come to counselling after having a baby because they are having trouble getting on the same page with regards to parenting styles, tactics they will and won’t use, top priorities, family values, or splitting responsibilities. These are pretty major themes and if partners have a difference in opinion that can lead to many disagreements. This is why some parents use a counsellor or therapist to help them work through core issues like these. 

4. Sex has become a source of stress

Sex drives changing after having a child is very common, at least temporarily. There can be multiple reasons for that: sleep deprivation, physical changes after birth, feeling touched out from tending to a baby’s physical needs, increased stress levels, relationship tension, new stressors leading a new parent to not feel in the mood, and postpartum body image issues can all factor into this. Some parents choose to seek counselling to talk this through and better understand each partner’s needs and feelings around sexuality and physical connection. 

5. Both partners need to learn new ways to give support

The ways that you showed and received support and love from each other may have changed since having a baby. Or it may need to change. Having a baby means your life takes many different turns. Life looks different now and your time and resources have more demands than ever before. For these reasons, what worked in the relationship before having a child may not be enough now or it may have to look different. For example, a weekly date night may no longer be realistic. Or a teasing sense of humour might not have the same charm when stress levels are running high and words of affirmation are needed instead. 

6. One or both partners is experiencing a mood disorder

Both birthing parents as well as non-birthing parents are susceptible to mood disorders after a baby comes. Postpartum depression and anxiety are common disorders that both parents can suffer from. Common symptoms of either of these mood disorders can include anger, having a short fuse, being easily overwhelmed, teary, not sleeping or eating enough, or feeling mentally drained all the time. With this in mind, most people in this state won’t always have the stores for proper communication      

7. You need more effective ways to communicate 

Couples go to counselling after having a baby because communication feels tense, out of whack, ineffective, or one or both parties are avoiding it entirely. Having a baby means both partners need to be able to communicate: concerns, issues, needs, desires, values, etc. Couples seek counselling because they know that healthy communication is the key to a strong foundation. Where they may have thought their communication was sufficient, having a baby may have put that to the test and they may now see areas that need improvement. 

8. Boundaries need to be more clearly drawn 

One of the hardest—but most necessary—things to do to protect your peace is to set necessary boundaries. After having kids, many couples may notice new areas where boundaries need to be in place. This could be anything from agreeing how to fight to deciding which roles family members have with regards to raising your kids.  

9. New key issues have popped up and you need guidance 

You have a baby and all of a sudden new points of contention are coming up. Couples seek support from a therapist during this time so that they can work through these issues from the beginning rather than letting them fester for years. It’s too often the case where problems aren’t dealt with properly and only resurface in future arguments again and again.  

Navigating the uncharted waters of parenthood can strain even the strongest relationships, leading to significant drops in satisfaction for over two-thirds of couples in the first three years of their child’s life. Despite the pervasive nature of postpartum challenges, the societal focus often neglects the crucial issue of relationship dissatisfaction. It’s important for couples to know that there’s no shame in seeking counselling during this time. Actually, talking to a therapist is a proactive step towards addressing common hurdles, fostering better communication, and ultimately ensuring the emotional well-being of both partners and their growing family.

If you’re considering going to counselling, consider our team of therapists which offers support including couples therapy for parents around Canada. Don’t hesitate to learn more about us, reach out and book a session, or get in touch with a question.

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About The perinatal collective

Welcome! So glad you're here. 

We're a team of mental health therapists across Canada with advanced education and experience in perinatal mental health, meaning you don't have to cross your fingers and hope that we understand how hard this stage can be.

We understand the nuances of the early stages of parenthood: how typical counselling strategies may not be relevant to parents with young kids, and how mental health challenges look different during this time.  

From deciding to have children, to navigating your journey through fertility, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, relationship changes, parenting, career demands and beyond, parenthood can be full with challenges.

Our goal is to help you manage the peaks and valleys of the entire journey, while staying connected to yourself, and feeling whole, along the way.