Perinatal Mental Health
The risk of developing a mental health problem during the perinatal period (the time between becoming pregnant and your baby’s first birthday) is greater than developing a physical illness. In fact more than 1 in 4 mothers and 1 in 10 fathers experience symptoms of depression or anxiety during this time. We understand that this can be a very difficult and confusing time. Many parents worry that having a problem with their mental health means that they are a bad parent, or fear that they will be judged by health care professionals.
We would like you to know that you are not alone and mental health problems can often be very easily treated.
Taking care of your mental health is just as important as staying physically well. There are many practical things you can do to help protect your mental health.
- Look after yourself, and try to avoid comparing yourself to other mums. You don’t know how they are feeling!
- Try to have a healthy, regular night time routine. Having 8 hours sleep can really help protect your mental health
- Eat regular, healthy meals but don’t feel guilty if you don’t always have time to prepare a meal from scratch. Occasional take-aways or convenience food can sometimes help take pressure off busy mums – but don’t do this every day, save these options for when you need a break.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Family and friends are often only too glad to help out with childcare, household chores or just listening if you want to talk about your fears. Talking to your partner about how you feel is also very important. Relationship difficulties can develop when you are both feeling tired, under financial strain or unable to achieve unrealistic expectations – all very common feelings when having a baby!
- Taking part in some regular exercise, whether this is just going for a walk or something more active has been proven to be as effective as taking medication for some people experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety.
- Talk to your health care professional. He or she will not be shocked by anything you tell them, as symptoms of perinatal mental health problems are so common. You may be directed to see your GP, or a mental health team who specialize in perinatal mental health problems.
- Many people find taking part in some craft or distraction activity can help reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression. Consider trying an activity such as knitting, jigsaws, crosswords etc. There are also many apps which are free to download onto your mobile phone which can relieve some symptoms of common mental health problems.
Perinatal Mental Health Services
You may be referred into a specialist perinatal mental health service. These services are designed to provide expert care to women and their families, who may develop moderate to severe symptoms of mental health problems during the perinatal period.
- Moderate to severe symptoms of depression or anxiety
- Eating disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Severe mental illnesses including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and bipolar affective disorder
- Postpartum psychosis
- Severe self-harm
- Suicidal thoughts.
The service can also provide the following:
- Planning care with you and those caring for you (for example your midwife, community mental health team or health visitor). This is particularly helpful if you have an existing mental health problem, where plans can be agreed about medication or visits etc.
- Pre-conception advice to women with a diagnosis or higher risk of developing a mental health problem, who are considering a pregnancy.
- Expert advice to non-specialist health professionals.
- Assessment and care of pregnant women who are well but at risk of developing a serious mental health problem following birth.
- Care for those who experience a deterioration in their mental health during pregnancy and the first year after birth.
- A personal or family history of a serious mental illness for example, bipolar or psychosis or a personal or maternal family history of perinatal mental illness.
If you need more help and advice on perinatal mental health please click here to access 'Every Mum Matters'.
Dads may also feel a range of different emotions and need support from services such as Andy's Man Club as well as health professionals.