Perinatal Mental Health

If you have any concerns around your pregnancy please call our Triage Helpline
Tel: 0300 131 5341

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.


Perinatal Counselling Service is a 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 Perinatal Counselling Service 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.

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 12 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 Mental Health Champions from the Integrated Children’s Service, usually a Health Visitor and Children’s Centre Keyworker or Community 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 3 sessions, your baby can come into the group with you. From session 4 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 run over 10 weeks. 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).

What if I still need support when the groups have finished?
There are other support services that you might find helpful, which one depends on the type of difficulties you are experiencing and on your own preference. Your Health Visitor/Keyworker/Community Nursery Nurse will be able to describe the options so you can decide what is right for you.

When and where are the next groups taking place?
Please ask your Health Visiting Team or Children’s Centre for details.

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.