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perinatal and postnatal mental health

perinatal and postnatal mental health

being pregnant and having a child can affect your mental health in many ways

Bringing a baby into the family is exciting, but it can also make mums and dads feel lots of different emotions. Sometimes, these feelings of perinatal and postnatal mental health can be sometimes hard to manage when so much is going on in your life. 

It’s important to know what to look out for, like feeling depressed or anxious, so that parents can get help and support early on. Understanding how new mums and dads might be feeling is super important. Studies have shown that women are more likely to be depressed during pregnancy. By talking about any changes in how they’re (or you’re) feeling, we can help make sure they get the support they need to feel happy and healthy. 

What does perinatal mean?

Perinatal refers to the time from when a mother gets pregnant to the first year of pregnancy. When talking about pregnancy, you may also hear these words:

  • Prenatal (or antenatal) which refers to the time you’re pregnant
  • Postnatal (or postpartum) which refers to the first year after you’re pregnant

Common myths 

 mother’s mental health is only affected after the baby is born

Sometimes people think that mums only feel sad or stressed after the baby is born, but that’s not true. Mums can feel this way during pregnancy too. It’s important to take care of mum’s feelings before and after the baby comes. Such worries can include financial worries, which is a common issue when having a baby.

only mums can experience mental health issues

Fathers and other family members can experience mental health issues too. It’s important to help everyone who is taking care of the baby feel better if they’re sad or stressed.

negative emotions are because of a lack of bonding or attachment 

Having a baby can be a joyful experience, but it’s okay to feel negative emotions. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby. We all experience things differently and people going through pregnancy just need extra support and care during this special time.

Symptoms during pregnancy and after having a baby 

When someone is pregnant or has just had a baby, there are some things they might feel or experience. Here are some common ones:

Experiencing tiredness: Being pregnant or looking after a new baby can make you feel tired. It’s important to rest more and get more sleep during this time. 

Feeling happy or sad: Sometimes, mums and dads might feel incredibly happy because they’re going to have a baby. But they might also feel a little worried or stressed sometimes. That’s okay, and it’s important to talk about how you’re feeling with someone you trust. It could be a friend, someone who has had similar experiences or your GP. 

Changes in eating: When you’re pregnant or after having a baby, you might notice that you want to eat different foods or that you’re not as hungry as usual. This is normal because your body is changing, and your appetite changes because of that. 

Feeling sick: Some mums feel physically unwell, especially in the early months of pregnancy. This is called morning sickness, but it can happen at any time of the day. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for morning sickness, but getting plenty of rest and drinking water can help. 

Worried about the baby: It’s common for mums and dads to worry about their baby’s health and safety, especially if it’s their first baby. This is normal, but it’s also important to ask a doctor or nurse if you have any questions or concerns.

These are just a few things that new mums and dads might feel or experience during pregnancy and after having a baby. Every person is different, so not everyone will feel the same way. If you or someone you know is having a baby and feels unsure or worried about anything, it’s okay to ask for help or talk to a doctor. 

Will my mental health condition be affected by pregnancy? 

Pregnancy can affect your mental health, especially if you already have a mental health condition have experienced poor mental health in the past. Hormone changes, sleep problems and stress during pregnancy and postpartum can make things harder. But it’s different for everyone. Talk to your doctor and midwife about your feelings and worries to get the support you need. That might mean adjusting your treatment or getting extra help. It’s important to take care of yourself for both you and your baby. You can read more about it on Tommy’s website.

How can I take care of myself? 

When you’re pregnant or have just had a baby, it’s important to take care of yourself. Here are some things you can do: 

Rest: Being pregnant or looking after a new baby can be tiring, so make sure you get plenty of rest when you can. 

Eat well: Eating healthy food is important for you and your baby. Try to eat a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Do not drink any alcohol or any raw food when pregnant, as this might hurt the baby.

Exercise: Gentle exercise like walking or swimming can help you feel better and stay healthy during pregnancy and after having a baby. Make sure not to do strenuous exercise, as it might harm the baby.

Ask for help: Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Whether you need help with chores, looking after the baby, or just someone to talk to, there are people who can help. A list of organisations who can help you is at the bottom of this page.

Take time for yourself: It’s important to take some time for yourself, even if it’s just a few minutes each day. Try to do something you enjoy, like reading a book or taking a bath, and continue to engage in the hobbies you most enjoy.

How can I help others? 

If someone you know is pregnant or has just had a baby, there are many ways you can support and help them:

Offer to help: Offer to help with chores, cooking meals or looking after older children so the new parent can rest. The smallest things can make the biggest difference.

Listen: Sometimes, all someone needs is someone to listen to them. Let them know you’re there for them if they want to talk.

Be understanding: Understand that being pregnant or having a new baby can be overwhelming. Be patient and offer your support without judgement.

Provide practical support: Offer to run errands, pick up groceries or provide transportation to appointments. Any small tasks that you can ease the burden of new parents.

Respect their decisions: Understand their parenting choices and any decisions they make regarding their pregnancy or baby.

Remember, even small acts of kindness can make a significant difference to someone who is pregnant or has just had a baby. Your support and help can mean the world to them during this special time.

support

Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies. 

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at advice@changemh.org or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.  

Who else can I contact?

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