Special Considerations when Betrayal Intersects the Perinatal Period

Written by Abigail Carey, MA, LMHC, LPC, CMHS, NCC

Betrayal is heartbreaking whenever it occurs, and if you are someone in your perinatal period walking through betrayal there are a few things I want you to know. 

  1. Your feelings are real and they matter. Culturally, we can be dismissive of a pregnant or postpartum mother’s emotional experience because of the hormonal changes happening in the body during that time. While hormonal shifts may lead to emotions being experienced differently during this time, to insinuate that they make a person “crazy” or “irrational” is gaslighting, minimizing, and offensive. 
  2. Your attachment system is already in overdrive. When we talk about betrayal, we are talking about a wound that occurs to the attachment in that relationship. This is an important consideration given that within the perinatal period your attachment system is working to form connection with your child as a survival mechanism. Human infants cannot survive without adult support which makes it critical that a caretaker attach to the infant quickly and effectively. When betrayal occurs between partners during this time, it is common for the betrayed partner to view the betraying partner as a threat to herself and their child due to the activation of the attachment system. 
  3. You might not want to talk about it, and you should talk about it. While some people love the perinatal period, many experience this time as being very isolating. This is especially true if you are also navigating betrayal. Avoidance is a common trauma response and when we are feeling overwhelmed and unsafe the idea of talking about betrayal can feel like the last thing we want to do. Valid, and if you are open to taking that step to share your experience with a safe professional it also opens the door to the connection that is so vital to the healing process. If you’re not ready yet, please know that you are not alone and this is not your fault. 
  4. The strongest predictor of overall health of a child is the health of their mother. It is not the family system they grow up in or whether their parents are together or separated or sleeping in the same bed. I hope this consideration serves as empowerment to prioritize whatever feels healthiest for you in this season. In the betrayal trauma work we do, we know every scenario is complex and what is right for one individual won’t be for another. There is no one “right” choice, except the choice to prioritize your mental health and be open to support. 
  5. Connecting with a provider that can hold the unique aspects of betrayal trauma and perinatal mental health matters. The intersections of these experiences are complicated and can impact mental health in overwhelming ways. If you were my friend, I’d encourage you to connect with a provider who has advanced training in both areas. 


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