Mental Health in pregnancy

Pregnancy and the first year after giving birth are times of great adjustment and emotional upheaval in a woman’s life.

Most women go through pregnancy and the first year after giving birth without problems but it is important to remember that changing emotions, social, financial and physical demands can be difficult to manage and you may feel more anxious and ‘down’ than usual.

Although this is the same for most people, mental health problems can develop differently when you are pregnant or have recently given birth and you might need more urgent care and treatment because of the effects on your own health, the health of your baby and any other children in the family.

When you first see a midwife, health visitor or GP about care during pregnancy they will ask you if you have, or have ever had a severe mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression or psychosis after giving birth).

They will also ask you if you have ever received treatment from a psychiatrist or specialist mental health team – this includes treatment in hospital, and if anyone in your family has had mental health problems during pregnancy or after giving birth.

Important information

If you already have a mental health problem you may become ill again during pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth.

Severe mental illness may develop much more quickly and be more serious after giving birth than at any other time.

It is important to speak to your midwife or doctor before you stop taking any medication you have been prescribed to help with a mental health problem. Stopping your medication can make your illness return or become worse.

If you have a mental health problem, or have ever had a severe mental illness, your midwife, GP or Obstetrician will ask about how you are feeling (in relation to your mental health) at each visit. We will also ask about your feelings after your baby is born. It is important that you tell us how you are feeling so we can offer you appropriate help and advice.

It is normal to have some emotional ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ in the first weeks after your baby is born. This is commonly known as the Baby Blues and although it can be distressing, often these ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ resolve on their own.

Continued low mood and anxiousness can be a sign of Postnatal Depression. This is less common and usually happens in the first 12 weeks after the birth of your baby. However, it can happen anytime until your baby is a year old and you may require additional support or treatment from your GP.

Puerperal Psychosis following the birth of a baby is a rare condition, but is very serious and requires treatment by a specialised mental health team in hospital.

If you do not have a specific mental illness, but you are feeling ‘down’ or anxious and this is affecting your everyday life, we will offer you additional support from professionals, voluntary organisations or other services to help manage your feelings during pregnancy and after giving birth.