Mental health in pregnancy

If you are pregnant and would like to know more about looking after your mental health, this page has advice and information.

Being pregnant is a big life event and it is natural to feel a lot of different emotions. But if you’re feeling sad and it’s starting to affect your life, there are things you can try that may help.

If you need help now

Support is available. If you need someone to talk to now contact your maternity unit or find out where to get urgent help for mental health.

Do

  • talk about your feelings to a friend, family member, doctor or midwife

  • try calming breathing exercises if you feel overwhelmed

  • do physical activity if you can – it can improve your mood and help you sleep

  • eat a healthy diet with regular meals

  • try to attend antenatal classes to meet others who are expecting babies around the same time as you

Don't

  • do not compare yourself to others – everyone experiences pregnancy in different ways

  • do not be afraid to tell healthcare professionals how you are feeling – they are there to listen and support you

  • do not use alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to try and feel better – these can make you feel worse and affect your baby's growth and wellbeing

Speak to your midwife or a doctor if:

  • things you're trying yourself are not helping

They can offer you support. They may offer you a referral to perinatal mental health services or other emotional support. Perinatal means the time you are pregnant and up to 12 months after giving birth.

If you're feeling sad and it's not improving, a talking therapy might help.

There are different types of talking therapies for mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Talking therapies include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling.

A GP can refer you for talking treatment, or you can refer yourself directly to an NHS talking therapies service without going to a GP. If you refer yourself, it's a good idea to talk to a midwife or GP as well about how you're feeling.

You may be offered medicine to treat your symptoms.

If you decide to take medicine while you're pregnant or breastfeeding speak to your doctor. They will help you weigh up the risks and benefits, so you can decide on the best treatment for you and your baby.

They'll offer you the safest medicine at the lowest amount that will still work.

Mental health problems

There are many mental health problems you could experience in pregnancy. They can happen at any time, even if this is not your first pregnancy.

If you You may have
feel sad all the time depression
have flashbacks, nightmares or feel intense distress when reminded of a past experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – this can happen if you've had a pregnancy go wrong, a traumatic birth or have experienced abuse
have sudden attacks of panic or fear panic disorder
have obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
have an intense fear of giving birth tokophobia – find out more about tokophobia on Tommy's website

You may also find it hard to cope with your body changing shape, particularly if you have had an eating disorder.

Further support

You can find care for your mental health before, during and after pregnancy.

Some charities and organisations offer support for mental health during pregnancy.

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