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About perinatal mental health problems

Learn about mental health problems that can happen during pregnancy and after you've had a baby. This includes how to manage existing mental health problems during this time.

What are perinatal mental health problems?

A perinatal mental health problem is one that you experience any time from becoming pregnant up to a year after you give birth.

Having a baby is a big life event. It's natural to experience a range of emotions. But if these feelings start to affect your daily life, this might be a perinatal mental health problem.

This could be a new mental health problem. Or an episode of a problem you've experienced in the past.

It can be difficult to know whether you're experiencing perinatal mental health problems. Especially if you've become a parent for the first time.

Some of the symptoms that you experience may feel normal to you at first. You may feel like they're part of having a baby. This can make it more challenging to know when to seek help.

You can visit these pages to learn more about individual perinatal mental health problems:

Some people also experience eating problems during and after pregnancy. Pregnancy charity Tommy's has information about eating disorders in pregnancy. It may also help to read our pages on eating problems.

You may also experience mental health problems that aren't listed here. See our page on types of mental health problems to find more information.

What does 'perinatal' mean?

'Perinatal' means the time from the start of pregnancy to around a year after giving birth.

You might also hear these terms:

  • Antenatal or prenatal, meaning 'before birth'. This refers to the time when you're pregnant.
  • Postnatal or postpartum, meaning 'after birth'. This refers to the first year after you give.

I didn’t sleep and was constantly frightened that the worst was going to happen at any moment. But whilst this was all going on inside my head, I wanted to come across like I was doing OK

Information for partners

If your partner is pregnant or recently gave birth, you may also experience mental health problems around this time.

See our page on partners' mental health, including ways to find help and support.

We also have information about how to support someone who is experiencing a perinatal mental health problem.

Talking about postnatal mental health

Watch Sara, Holly and Kate talk about their experiences of mental health problems after pregnancy.

Managing existing mental health problems during pregnancy

If you have a mental health problem and you get pregnant, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor as soon as possible. It may also help if you're thinking of getting pregnant.

This could be speaking to your GP. Or you could talk to any other doctor involved in your mental health care, like a psychologist or psychiatrist.

This is because having mental health problems can increase your risk becoming unwell during pregnancy and after birth. This is especially if you've experienced severe depression, psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or schizoaffective disorder.

Your doctor can help you make plans to manage your mental health during pregnancy. They can also help you think about any extra support you might need. Our information on how to talk to your GP may help with having this conversation.

I had been diagnosed with PTSD prior to my pregnancy. When I became pregnant with my daughter I had 'crisis' episodes and was referred to a consultant who helped me to identify my triggers.

Managing medication during pregnancy

If you're taking medication, your doctor will talk to you about any risks and benefits. They'll also talk about how to manage medication during pregnancy and after having your baby.

In some cases, your doctor may suggest that you stop taking certain medications to make sure your pregnancy is safe. If you decide to come off medication, or your doctor suggests this, it's important to do it safely. This should be with the support of your doctor.

We have more information about antidepressants during pregnancy and antipsychotics during pregnancy.

If I became unwell last time I was pregnant, will it happen again?

If you experienced a mental health problem around a previous pregnancy, there's more risk that you'll become unwell again. This is particularly if you've experienced postpartum psychosis. But this doesn't mean you definitely will.

If you became unwell previously, you might worry about having another baby. But you may also feel more confident in how to look after yourself. And you may know how to spot any signs that you're becoming unwell.

If you get pregnant, or want to, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. You can discuss how to look after your mental health and the support you might need.

Your doctor can also refer you to a perinatal psychiatrist. This is a specialist doctor. They can support you if you're pregnant or recently gave birth, and have experience of mental health problems.

Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) has a series of guides about postpartum psychosis. This includes a guide to planning a pregnancy if you're at high risk of developing postpartum psychosis.

See our page on perinatal support and services for information about what support is available during pregnancy.

I also went on to recently have a baby girl a year ago and didn't experience this again. It proved to me that just because the first time had been an awful traumatic experience it didn't mean the second time had to be the same story.

Managing mental health problems with a new baby

If you've recently had a baby, it may seem difficult to talk about how you're feeling. You might feel:

  • Pressure to be happy and excited
  • Like you have to be managing everything well
  • Worried you're a bad parent
  • That other people will judge you for how you're feeling
  • Like you should be focusing on your baby instead of yourself
  • Scared that someone will take your baby away from you, if you're open about your feelings

But having mental health problems is not your fault.

You can ask for help and support. Our page on perinatal support and services lists health professionals, charities and other organisations who may be able to help.

Our page on self-care for perinatal mental health also has ideas that you can try for yourself.

And our page for friends and family has tips for the people around you to support you during this time.

It took a lot of courage to tell my midwife that I was experiencing suicidal thoughts and had sought help from my GP.

Will I hurt my baby?

If you experience thoughts about harming your baby, this can be very frightening.

But remember that having these thoughts doesn't mean you are going to harm your baby. These thoughts can be a sign of perinatal depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

You might be afraid to tell anyone about these feelings. But the more you can talk about them, the sooner you can get support. This could be talking to a family member or friend. Or to a health professional like your doctor or midwife.

Will my baby be taken away from me?

You may worry that if you tell someone how you're feeling, your baby will be taken away from you. But having mental health problems and getting help doesn't make you a bad parent. And it doesn't mean that you're unable to care for your baby.

Talk to your doctor, midwife or health visitor as soon as possible. They can help make sure that you get the support you need.

Your baby will only be taken into care in extreme circumstances. It would happen if social services believe that your baby is at risk of serious harm or neglect. Healthcare professionals want to help and support you.

It took me about 10 months to learn that I have always loved my son and he has always loved me. It was my mind making me believe that I didn't

This information was published in March 2024. We will revise it in 2027.

References and bibliography available on request.

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