Elena Darmenko

Expat Psychotherapist

Support to Pregnant Women Abroad

Hi! I am Elena Darmenko. I'm an expat psychotherapist and adaptation strategist.

I know that becoming a mother is an exciting and deeply emotional time for women, a period of self-discovery – and self-questioning too. Some women feel more vulnerable and anxious while pregnant, especially expatriated women living far away from home. Medical follow-up varies from one country to another and expectant mothers need to adapt, speak a different language and deal with misunderstandings. For women expecting a child abroad, feelings of fatigue, frustration and even despondency can be exacerbated.
I work with pregnant women all around the Globe. I create a non-judgemental and supportive space for my clients to make them feel relaxed and self-confident. We are working together to create your comfort zone to prepare you for this gorgeous event - for giving birth and welcoming your child.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Whatever happens - I'm always on your side! Let's explore your new home and your new life together!
The Importance of being proactive about your self-care
Most people are now aware of postpartum depression and its long-term effects on the mother, newborn and family. A similar level of awareness among the public about maternal stress and depression during pregnancy and how it affects the foetus is needed.
Did you know that the mother's psychological wellbeing during pregnancy benefits a child's future health?

The fact that a mother's health affects that of her baby during pregnancy is well known, but many do not realize that this not just applies to maternal physical health but to mental health as well. Most people are now aware of postpartum depression and its long-term effects on the mother, newborn and family. A similar level of awareness among the public about maternal stress and depression during pregnancy and how it affects the foetus is needed.

Maternal stress and child health

A growing corpus of scientific studies points to the fact the maternal mental health during pregnancy plays a huge role in the child's future psychological wellbeing. The preliminary results of a study by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology reveal that babies of mothers suffering from mood disorders during and right after pregnancy tend to have higher heart rates and are likely to have difficult temperaments.

Chronic strain, anxiety and depressive symptoms during pregnancy are also associated with lower birth weight. Such babies may suffer from long-term health issues like delayed motor and social development, learning difficulties and more childhood infections.

Another study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology in 2019 reveals that pregnant women with higher negativity or lower positivity towards the pregnancy, higher level of hassles and lower maternal education are more likely to give birth to babies who are at a higher risk of developing depression during childhood or adolescence. These children, whether male or female, are likely to have decreased cognitive function during childhood, lower perceived parental support during adolescence and higher chances of witnessing maternal depression during childhood and adolescence. Screening the mental health of pregnant women is therefore vital.

Psychological phases of pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of profound psychological as well as physical change. The first three months are a period of wonder at the very idea of "being pregnant' and charged with overwhelming emotions. The mother-to-be can be thrilled to be pregnant and full of dread at the same time. She may be worried about something going wrong or even miscarrying. What's more, the physical changes are still minor and so she can't identify with the child yet.

The second trimester is often a period of serenity. Body changes are more visible, physical symptoms from the first trimester progressively disappear and the expectant mother begins to accept and connect with the new life growing inside her.

During the last three months, the mother starts to identify different rhythms between her and her baby. Her condition changes to what English psychoanalyst D. Winnicott called the "Primary Maternal Preoccupation" – a psychological state that strengthens towards the end of the pregnancy and in the first months of the baby's life to prepare the mother for childcare.

Why do you need a psychological support during your pregnancy abroad?
The most common concerns and quesitons of expats expecting:

What happens if I give birth overseas?
Where should I ask for help?
How will I handle the language barrier?
What are the traditions of giving birth in this country?
How can I cover unforeseen costs?
What should I bring with me?
My parents are far away, is there anyone to share my concerns?
Will my partner help me?

The importance of a consultation before and after childbirth

For women living abroad, far away from family and friends, the physical, physiological and psychological effects of pregnancy can be even more difficult to cope with - whether its sleeping disorders, eating disorders, anxiety, sadness or distress. You may feel depressed or lonely or doubt yourself (will I be able to handle all this?) or even lose your sense of identity (who I am?). You may also feel vulnerable and low in confidence once the baby is born; you may question your capacity to take care of it. You may be worried about its crying or feeding and sleeping patterns. A consultation with a psychologist is crucial to understand what's going on and help build the bond between mother and baby.

Get the right answers when you need them.

I imagine that is how you feel when you are looking for answers in pregnancy. Sure, it is easy to hop on to Google and look it up, but imagine if you could send an email to your psychologist that you know, like and trust and get the right answer immediately? You'll get the full support; your stress level will be cut down and you will get tools and techniques on how to get concentrated on self-care.

Contact me if you:

  • feel low or anxious
  • lose interest in things you normally like
  • have panic attacks
  • feel worthless or guilty
  • lose your appetite
  • have unpleasant thoughts that keep coming back and you can't control them
  • find yourself repeating an action (like washing, checking, counting) to feel better
  • feel severely depressed or extremely energetic and talkative
  • you are so afraid of giving birth that you don't want to go through with it

It's important to be honest with me about how you feel. I will never criticize you and will help you get the support you need.