It is National Women’s Health Week, a time to remember the importance of women’s physical and mental health. One important issue that many women face is changing mental health around the perinatal time—meaning the period of time pre, during, and post-pregnancy. Although pregnancy and the perinatal period are often a time of joy and plans for positive change, there are also many types of mental health challenges for women during this time. These can be around pregnancy care, childbearing itself, maternal depression, body image, breastfeeding, attachment between baby and caretakers, parenting, grieving life before a baby, and getting used to a new type of life with a baby. Women who have experienced childhood trauma themselves may have a more difficult time managing these challenging changes in stress levels, hormone levels, family dynamics, and emotional fluctuations. Difficult experiences during the perinatal time are common and treatable.
EMDR therapy can be used to treat women coping with overwhelming perinatal experiences. A recent article by Cortizo (2020), noted that “EMDR therapy can improve internal resources for expectant mothers; monitor their levels of psychological distress; and enable them to access and process traumatic memories, other adverse life experiences, recent stressors, and pre-perinatal concerns and bring them to adaptive resolution. EMDR therapy can also help pregnant mothers develop imaginal templates of future events that incorporate in utero developmental prenatal education and deepen their bonds with their babies.” As with any population and therapy method, it is always best to have a discussion with a professional therapist to decide if EMDR therapy seems like a good fit.
EMDRIA has an online community EMDR for Perinatal Mental Health for EMDRIA members to share questions and best practices in this topic area. In addition, EMDR trained therapists can search for upcoming workshops on our Education Calendar. Below are some articles that could be helpful for EMDR therapists considering working with this population.*
Peer-Reviewed Research Articles: Note that not all articles are open access, but those that are should be indicated that way.
Baas, M. A., Stramrood, C. A., Dijksman, L. M., de Jongh, A., & van Pampus, M G. (2017). The OptiMUM-study: EMDR therapy in pregnant women with posttraumatic stress disorder after previous childbirth and pregnant women with fear of childbirth: design of a multicenter randomized controlled trial. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 1293315. Open access: https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2017.1293315
Baas, M. A., van Pampus, M. G., Braam, L., Stramrood, C. A., & de Jongh, A. (2020). The effects of PTSD treatment during pregnancy: Systematic review and case study. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 11(1), 1762310. Open access: https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2020.1762310
Chiorino, V., Cattaneo, M. C., Macchi, E. A., Salerno, R., Roveraro, S., Bertolucci, G. G., . . . & Fernandez, I. (2019). The EMDR recent birth trauma protocol: A pilot randomized clinical trial after traumatic childbirth. Psychology and Health, 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1080/08870446.2019.1699088
Chiorino, V., Roveraro, S., Cattanio, M., Salerno, R., Macchi, E., Bertolucci, G., . . . Fernandez, I. (2016). A model of clinical intervention in the maternity ward: The breastfeeding and bonding EMDR protocol. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 10(4), 275-292. Open access: https://doi.org/10.1891/1933-322.214.171.1245
Cortizo, R. (2020). Prenatal and perinatal EMDR therapy: Early family intervention. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 14(2), 104-115. Open access: http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/EMDR-D-19-00046
de Bruijn, L., Stramrood, C. A., Lambregtse-van den Berg, M. P., & Rius Ottenheim, N. (2019). Treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder following childbirth. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 41(1), 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1080/0167482X.2019.1593961
Forgash, C., Leeds, A. M., Stramrood, C. A. I., & Robbins, A. (2013). Case consultation: Traumatized pregnant woman. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 7(1), 45-49. Open Access: https://doi.org/10.1891/1933-3126.96.36.199
Furuta, M., Horsch, A., Ng, E. S. W., Bick, D., Spain, D., & Sin, J. (2018). Effectiveness of Trauma-Focused Psychological Therapies for Treating Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Women Following Childbirth: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 9, 591. Open access: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00591/full
Hendrix, Y. M. G. A., van Dongen, K. S. M., de Jongh, A. & van Pampus, M. G. (2021 Preprint). Postpartum early EMDR therapy intervention (PERCEIVE) study for women after a traumatic birth experience: Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. BMC Trials. Open access: https://doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-414386/v1
Madrid, A., Skolek, S., & Shapiro, F. (2006). Repairing failures in bonding through EMDR. Clinical Case Studies, 5(4), 271-286. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534650104267403
Okawara, M., & Paulsen, S. L. (2018). Intervening in the intergenerational transmission of trauma by targeting maternal emotional dysregulation with EMDR therapy. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 12(3), 142-159. Open access: http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/1933-3188.8.131.52
Poel, Y. H. M., Swinkels, P., & de Vries, J. I. P. (2009). Psychological treatment of women with psychological complaints after pre-eclampsia. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 30(1), 65-72. https://doi.org/10.1080/01674820802545990
Sandstrom, M., Wiberg, B., Wikman, M., Willman, A. K., & Hogberg, U. (2008). A pilot study of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing treatment (EMDR) for post-traumatic stress after childbirth. Midwifery, 24(1), 62-73. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2006.07.008
Stramrood, C. A., van der Velde, J., Doornbos, B., Marieke Paarlberg, K., Weijmar Schultz, W. C., & van Pampus, M. G. (2012). The patient observer: Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing for the treatment of posttraumatic stress following childbirth. Birth, 39(1), 70-76. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-536x.2011.00517.x
Zolghadr, N., Khoshnazar, A., MoradiBaglooei, M., & Alimoradi, Z. (2019). The effect of EMDR on childbirth anxiety of women with previous stillbirth. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 13(1), 10-19. Open access: http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/1933-3184.108.40.206
Caterina Cattaneo, M., Chiorino, V., Roveraro, S., Salerno, R., & Fernandez, I. (2019). The EMDR recent birth trauma protocol. In M. Luber (Ed.), EMDR therapy scripted protocols and summary sheets: Treating trauma in somatic and medical-related conditions, (pp. 377-412). New York, NY: Springer Publishing
Chiorino, V., Roveraro, S., Caterina Cattaneo, M. Salerno, R., & Fernandez, I. (2019). The breastfeeding and bonding EMDR protocol. In M. Luber (Ed.), EMDR therapy scripted protocols and summary sheets: Treating trauma in somatic and medical-related conditions, (pp. 427-454). New York, NY: Springer Publishing.
Klaus, P.H. & Simkin, P. (2011). When survivors give birth: Understanding and healing the effects of early sexual abuse on childbearing women. Seattle: WA, Classic Day Publishing
Kavakci, O. (2019). EMDR therapy, nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) and hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) in pregnant women. In M. Luber (Ed.), EMDR therapy scripted protocols and summary sheets: Treating trauma in somatic and medical-related conditions, (pp. 355-370). New York, NY: Springer Publishing
Luber, M. (2019). Summary sheet: EMDR therapy, nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) and hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) in pregnant women. In M. Luber (Ed.), EMDR therapy scripted protocols and summary sheets: Treating trauma in somatic and medical-related conditions, (pp. 371-376). New York, NY: Springer Publishing
Luber, M. (2019). Summary sheet: The breastfeeding and bonding EMDR protocol. In M. Luber (Ed.), EMDR therapy scripted protocols and summary sheets: Treating trauma in somatic and medical-related conditions, (pp. 427-454). New York, NY: Springer Publishing.
Luber, M. (2019). Summary sheet: The EMDR recent birth trauma protocol. In M. Luber (Ed.), EMDR therapy scripted protocols and summary sheets: Treating trauma in somatic and medical-related conditions, (pp. 413-426). New York, NY: Springer Publishing.
Morelli, K. (2012, Oct 12). EMDR part two: Clinical opinions regarding the safety of using EMDR to process traumatic material during a subsequent pregnancy to treat PTSD (childbirth onset) [blog post]. Retrieved from: https://www.lamaze.org/Connecting-the-Dots/emdr-part-two-clinical-opinions-regarding-the-safety-of-using-emdr-to-process-traumatic-material-during-a-subsequent-pregnancy-to-treat-ptsd-childbirth-onset
Rusnak, K. (2021, March 4). How to treat grief and pregnancy loss: An interview with a certified EMDR therapist. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/happy-healthy-relationships/202103/how-treat-grief-and-pregnancy-loss
Schraer, R. (2021, April 6). Mental health: More help for new and expectant mothers in England. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-56639858
Vantage Point Contributor. (2021, March 30). Improving Reproductive Health for Women with PTSD. Vantage Point: Blog of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. https://blogs.va.gov/VAntage/86691/improving-reproductive-health-women-ptsd/
West, C. (2014). Can I do EMDR if I am pregnant? [Webpage]. Retrieved from https://www.colleenwest.com/for-clients/can-i-do-emdr-if-i-am-pregnant/
*We welcome any related resources or article suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.