Supporting good mental health during your pregnancy.

Your mental health during pregnancy and after birth is very important to us. It is just as important to take care of your mental health as it is to take care of your physical health, but it can be harder to realise that there’s a problem or admit that you need some extra help.

In the UK, up to 1 in 5 women develop some form of mental health problem during their pregnancy or in the year after birth (sometimes called the “perinatal period”).

Most of us have heard of postnatal depression (PND), but you might not be aware that some women also suffer from antenatal depression (depression during pregnancy). This is a time of so much change, to your body and your hormones as well as to your life in general, so it’s understandable that lots of women struggle with their emotions during pregnancy.

It’s important to remember that depression and anxiety during pregnancy are common, and can be treated, but there are also lots of things you can do yourself to improve your emotional wellbeing. You could try:

  • Meditation, relaxation and breathing exercises

  • Asking family and friends for practical help

  • Take some time for yourself

  • Talking to trusted family or friends

Being active during pregnancy can help improve your mood and help improve your quality of sleep. It can also reduce worries and depression during and after pregnancy.

If you find that these steps aren’t helping and you are still struggling, you can get help and advice from your midwife or GP.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s best to talk to someone:

  • Anxiety, worrying or feeling low most of the time for more than two weeks

  • Loss of appetite

  • Not wanting to get out of bed

  • Having unpleasant thoughts that you can’t control

  • Panic attacks

  • Feelings of dread, guilt or worthlessness

  • Finding that you need to repeat certain actions (e.g. washing your hands, turning lights on and off) to make yourself feel better

  • Feeling so terrified of labour/birth that you feel unable to go through with it

  • Losing interest in the things you usually enjoy

  • Thinking you are a bad mother or cannot cope with a baby

  • Thinking about hurting yourself or suicide

Lots of women feel embarrassed or worried about admitting that they are struggling with their emotional wellbeing, but there is no need to feel this way. Your midwife and your general practitioner (GP) will have helped lots of pregnant women with their mental health, and everyone involved in your care wants to help you.

You can also refer yourself to Steps 2 Wellbeing to access talking therapies if you’re feeling sad, anxious, low or stressed.

If your mental health issues are severe, your midwife may refer you to the perinatal mental health team for assessment and treatment.

Some women suffer from a fear of labour and birth, also known as tokophobia. This happens more commonly in women who have had previous children, especially if they have had a traumatic birth experience, but it can also occur in your first pregnancy. Women who’ve had lots of gynaecological problems or a history of sexual abuse are also more likely to suffer from this issue. Tokophobia can get worse as your pregnancy progresses it’s best to speak to your midwife about this as early as possible in your pregnancy. They can refer you for help and support, and to the Birth Choices clinic if you need to discuss your birth options.