You may expect pregnancy and the postnatal period after your baby is born (both known as the perinatal period) to be the happiest time in your life. But sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. We can help you to get the support you need if you’re struggling with your mental health.
Your mental health matters
There are lots of changes that come with pregnancy. Physical changes, changes in hormones, changes in relationships and social groups – all of which affect people differently. Not everyone will feel like they’re blooming!
Think about who is around you to share your thoughts and feelings about your pregnancy with and who will support you when your baby is born. It is important to share your worries and know that your midwife, GP and health visitor can give you individual advice and support.
The first few days and weeks with your new baby can feel overwhelming. You will be recovering from the birth and adjusting to a new way of life with extra demands on you and very little sleep. Around 3 to 4 days after birth, more than half of new birth parents experience the baby blues. You may have mood swings and burst into tears easily. You can also feel irritable, low and anxious at times and may over-react to things that wouldn’t usually bother you. If you continue to feel like this for more than 2 weeks, please speak to your Health Visitor or GP.
It is common for pregnant women and new parents to experience:
- Low mood, sadness and tearfulness
- Anxiety, worry and tension
- Irritability and anger
- Difficult or unexpected feelings towards your pregnancy or baby
- Poor sleep even when your baby sleeps well
- Feeling unable to cope or enjoy anything
- Thoughts that you are not a good enough parent
- Worrying thoughts about your baby
- Anxiety about labour or struggling to come to terms with a difficult labour.
It can feel frightening and embarrassing to tell someone that you don’t feel like you’re coping but we’re here to help.
You are not alone, you deserve support.
There are many options for treatment and support available through the NHS. Talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP and they will be able to refer you to the right service for you.
Help in an emergency
If there is immediate risk to a parent and their baby, please call your GP (during office hours) or go to A&E.
If you know, or are looking after, a parent who you believe is in crisis and requires an urgent response out of hours, call the Sussex Mental Healthline, Monday to Friday from 5pm-9am, and 24 hours at weekends and bank holidays on 0300 5000 101.
Trained therapists and counsellors provide a range of different therapies through the NHS, known as IAPT services (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies).
- mild to moderate depression
- general anxiety and worry
- panic attacks
- social anxiety
- traumatic memories, and
- obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Parents can self-refer to all IAPT services.
Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service – SPMHS
This service is for people experiencing moderate to severe mental health difficulties. The SPMHS is a team of psychiatrists, mental health nurses, psychologists, parent-infant psychotherapists and nursery nurses who provide support during pregnancy and for up to a year after the birth of your baby.
Your midwife, GP, health visitor or adult mental health lead practitioner can make a referral to the SPMHS if you meet the criteria.
Helplines and listening services
- Sussex Mental Healthline
- Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline
- SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (out of hours mental health helpline)
- Hopelink UK 0800 068 4141 (suicide prevention for under 35’s)
- DistrACT App (an app providing support around deliberate self-harm)
- SHOUT: text HELP to 85258 (text-based crisis service)
Peer support brings together people with similar experiences. Your peers can:
- support you and listen to how you’re feeling
- offer empathy and understanding
- share experiences, information, suggestions for self-care and support options
The PANDAS Foundation provides support and advice for parents experiencing perinatal mental illness.
- How to seek help for a mental health problem (Mind)
- Mental health in pregnancy (Royal College of Psychiatry)
- Mental health and pregnancy – NHS
- Feelings, relationships and pregnancy – NHS
- Tips for improving mental health in pregnancy (Tommy’s charity)
- Drugs in pregnancy leaflets from Sussex Partnership NHS Trust
- Pregnancy and post-birth wellbeing plan (Tommy’s charity)
- Tokophobia (fear of childbirth) (Tommy’s charity)
- Postnatal depression (Royal College of Psychiatry)
- Postnatal depression: a survival guide for dads (Acacia Family Support)
- Cry-sis: help for parents with crying and sleepless babies
- Parenting with a mental health problem (Mind)
- Maternal Mental Health Alliance
- Maternal OCD
- Perinatal mental health leaflets (NHS England)
- Perinatal and postnatal mental health (Mind)
- Birth Trauma Association website