Perinatal Mental Health

Perinatal Mental Health (PNMH) refers to mental wellbeing during the perinatal period, which includes; pregnancy, labour, birth and the postnatal period up until your baby reaches one year of age. It is a very important aspect of your care and wellbeing.

At your initial booking appointment with your midwife she will ask you about your medical history including past and current mental health issues. You will be asked about your emotional wellbeing at each antenatal and postnatal contact. It is really important that you share any relevant mental health history with your community midwife at the earliest opportunity. Anybody can be affected by a mental health disorder during pregnancy and following childbirth; whether you have suffered in the past or not. Pregnancy is an emotionally and physically changing time and having a baby comes with new challenges and demands.

Within Maternity we have a Consultant Obstetrician who specialises in Perinatal Mental Health and we also have a Perinatal Mental Health Specialist Midwife. These professionals have a close network of support available to you if required, consisting of the Perinatal Mental Health Team, Psychiatrist, Health Visitors and a counselling service.

The most common mental health problems in pregnancy and after the birth of a baby are depression and anxiety. During pregnancy depression can affect approximately 12% of women and anxiety can affect around 13% of women. This figure increases to around 15 to 20% of women affected by depression and anxiety during the first year following childbirth.


Afterthought is a counselling service that offers 10 sessions of one-to-one counselling free of charge at Children’s Centres in East Sussex.

It sits within Integrated Health Visiting and Children’s Centre Services which means it is jointly run by East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust and East Sussex County Council.

If you live within East Sussex and you are pregnant or have a child under the age of 5, or have experienced a loss, miscarriage or termination of pregnancy, you can use our counselling service.

Counselling is a positive way of helping people cope with changes in their lives, of managing feelings and coping. If you are feeling that life is difficult right now, it may help to talk to someone else. Sometimes it is hard to share feelings with friends and family and it may be helpful to talk to someone who is not emotionally involved. The sessions will be your time to discuss whatever you think would be helpful.

The Counsellors are volunteers who are undertaking their counsellor qualification/have completed their counsellor qualification. They have been signed off as ready to work with clients by their university or college and completed all the checks that are required to work within the NHS.

How can I get referred?

The best way to get referred is for a health or social care professional you are working with to call. This is so that you don’t have to repeat any distressing information about the reason you would like counselling over the phone. It also gives an opportunity to discuss with the person you are working with whether counselling is the best option from all the available services for you at this time. If counselling seems like it might be helpful, you will then be asked to call the Afterthoughts telephone number so that you can hear a bit more about the service and decide if you would like to be placed on the waiting list.

Antenatal classes and drop in sessions are available in Hastings and Bexhill. Please see the information below to find the most appropriate class or drop-in sessions for you:

Bump and Beyond

When you are between 16-22 weeks pregnant come and join us for an antenatal workshop where we will be looking at:

  • Your baby’s growth
  • Changes for you

Classes held at three different venues:

  • Sidley or Egerton Park Children’s Centre

    Mondays 1.30pm to 3.30pm

  • East Hastings Children’s Centre, Chiltern Drive, Hastings

    Wednesdays 1.30pm to 3.30pm

You can book onto classes at any time by contacting Karen or Charlotte

Bump and Beyond

When you are between 30-34 weeks pregnant these four weekly sessions will continue looking at the birth and beyond:

  • Looking at giving birth
  • Meeting your baby
  • Caring for your baby
  • Your health and wellbeing
  • Who is there for you?

Classes held at 3 different venues:

  • Sidley or Egerton Park Children’s Centre

    Mondays 1.30pm to 3.30pm

  • East Hastings Children’s Centre, Chiltern Drive, Hastings

    Wednesdays 1.30pm to 3.30pm

You can book onto classes at any time by contacting Karen or Charlotte

Your Bump, Your Baby drop-in sessions

Free drop in session for all pregnant women to answer any questions you may have about your pregnancy. Children are welcome too, toys available. Refreshments provided and it is an opportunity to meet other mums to be. Two different venues:

  • East Hastings Children’s Centre, Chiltern Drive, Hastings

    Wednesdays 9.30am to  11.00am

  • St. Leonards Children’s Centre, Clyde Road, St Leonards-on-sea

    Fridays 10.00am to 11.30am

Under 20’s – Bumps Meet

Free antenatal classes for first time mums to be under 20 years old. Come and join us to talk about:

  • Your health
  • Unborn baby’s development
  • Labour
  • Birth
  • Caring for your baby
  • Feeding
  • Meet other mums to be
    • Hastings Town Children’s Centre, Waterworks Road, Hastings

      Tuesdays 1.00pm to 2.30pm

Please contact Karen Farrow to book onto these classes.

Under 20’s – Bumps Meet Babies

Free postnatal sessions for first time mums who are under 20 years old. These sessions are from birth until your baby is 8 weeks old. Come and join us to talk about:

      • Your health
      • Caring for your baby
      • Feeding
      • Baby massage
      • Meet other mums
      • What’s in the community for families
      • Hastings Town Children’s Centre, Waterworks Road, Hastings

        Tuesday 2.00pm to 3.30pm

Please contact Karen Farrow to book onto these classes.


Free 6 week course for pregnant women who are over 16 weeks of pregnancy.

      • Summerfields Leisure Centre, Bohemia Road, Hastings

        Tuesdays 9.30am to 10.00am

**Booking is essential as places are limited**, call Karen or Charlotte

The baby buddy app is a personalised and interactive app full of information throughout your pregnancy and following the birth of your baby for the first 6 months.

Health in Mind is an NHS organisation providing courses and therapies to help with stress, anxiety and low mood.For courses and an online self-referral visit:

Drop in sessions are also available called ‘Walk in to Wellbeing’ – please see flyers below for details of these sessions held in St Leonards-on-Sea and Rye:

The following website has information about all medications and their risk within pregnancy or during breastfeeding:

If you are pregnant and taking medication for your mental health, then please do not suddenly stop your medication. Please continue taking this as normal until you speak to your Doctor or Midwife. You can search your medication using the above website for information regarding pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Who can attend?
Mothers living within East Sussex with a child up to 18 months old who are experiencing low mood and/or anxiety.

Why are the groups offered?
We recognise that becoming a parent can be a very stressful time, with new responsibilities and changes in relationships. Parents can feel under pressure to do everything perfectly. We understand that the reality can be different from what you expected.

What happens in the groups?
The groups are facilitated by two Health Visitors with support from a Key Worker or Nursery Nurse. The groups offer an opportunity for parents to meet and share their experiences. The group content is based on the ideas of Compassion-Focused Therapy and aims to provide you with a range of techniques and ideas to help you through difficult times now and in the future.

Do people who attend benefit from the groups?
We evaluate the effectiveness of the groups in two ways; we ask you to complete questionnaires at the first and final sessions of the group that tell us about the severity of low mood and/or anxiety you are experiencing. We then compare the two scores to see if you are feeling better having attended the group than you felt before. From the information we have collected so far 91% of people have reduced anxiety scores and 82% of people have reduced depression scores having attended the groups. Other benefits that people have reported include; improved relationship with their babies/infants; improved self-esteem and a feeling of not being alone.

Can I bring my child(ren)?
For the first three sessions, your baby can come into the group with you. From session four onwards there is a crèche where your child will be looked after by trained crèche workers, you will have an opportunity to meet with them in advance of this.

When and how long are the groups?
There are 10 sessions, each session is approximately 90 minutes long. They take place within Children’s Centres in East Sussex (ask your Health Visitor/Nursery Nurse/Keyworker for details of the next group near to you).

When and where do the groups take place?

  • Hastings Town Children’s Centre

    Monday’s – 10.30am to 12.30pm

  • Eastbourne, Devonshire Children’s Centre

    Wednesday’ s – 10.00am to 11.30am

How can I get a place in the group?
Please ask your Health Visitor/Community Nursery Nurse or Keyworker to make a referral for you.