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Helping someone with perinatal mental health problems

Find tips for supporting someone with mental health problems while they're pregnant, or after they give birth.

If your partner is pregnant or recently gave birth and you're worried about your own mental health, see our page on partners' mental health.

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg. This link will take you to a Welsh translation of this page.

It might feel upsetting if someone close to you is experiencing perinatal mental health problems. But try not to blame them for how they feel. 

Some people who experience perinatal mental health problems might struggle to ask for help. This may be out of fear that they'll be judged as a bad parent. Or that their baby will be taken away from them. Other parents may want support, but not know exactly what they need.

This page has ideas for how you could help.

Offer to spend casual time with them

Having some company can help them feel less isolated. This can be while they get on with daily tasks and look after their baby.

Try to understand if they don't feel up to seeing or being around people at the moment. Just offering can sometimes be enough.

Make time to keep in touch

If someone is struggling with their mental health, it can make a big difference to know you're thinking of them. And that you want to spend time together.

For example, send a quick text if you don't think they feel up to a phone call. Or send a voice note on your phone that they can listen to when they're ready. 

Suggest activities that you used to do together

Becoming a parent can make some people feel like they're losing touch with their previous identity. See if you can find things to do together that you did before they became a parent.

Or you could offer to look after the baby while they do something by themselves. For example, having a relaxing bath, watching a TV show they like, or getting some rest.

Go to parent-baby groups or activities together

This can help if they feel nervous about going to a group on their own. You can start small. Offer to observe a class with them at first. Or go to talk to the instructor with them, so they have an idea of what to expect.

Give them space

They might feel guilty if they don't have lots of time to spend with other people. Or if they're not feeling well enough to reply to messages.

You could let them know that they only need to see or respond to you when they feel able. Or you can send them a message to tell them that you're thinking of them. And let them know they don't need to send a response.

Learn about perinatal mental health

If you're worried about how to talk about their mental health, try reading the rest of our perinatal mental health pages to learn more. It might make it easier to talk about, especially if they're finding it hard to open up.

Don't try to fix them

When someone we care about is struggling, it's natural to want to solve things for them. But being a parent comes with a lot of pressure.

Try to avoid telling them what you would do or what they should do. Just being there can be enough.

Listen to them

Try to keep the focus on them. Don't compare situations to other parents, or your own experiences and feelings. It's important that they can focus on their own needs.

Don't judge them

If they open up about distressing thoughts or behave out of character, try not to judge them. It's likely to be very difficult for them to talk about these sorts of thoughts. They may already feel judgemental of themselves. Try to listen, reassure them and offer support where possible.

Offer practical support

The best way to find out what they need is to ask them. But if they feel very low, they might find it difficult to know what they need.

These are some things you could offer:

  • Do cleaning, laundry and other household tasks
  • Help to cook and do the shopping
  • Remind them to take their medication, or help them take it on time
  • Look after the baby or other older children, so they can get some sleep or have some time for themselves

Help them with doctor's appointments

You could offer to sit in the waiting room with them or go to the appointment. Or you could offer to look after their baby or older children while they go to appointments.

If they struggle to arrange appointments, you could help with this. You could also encourage them to have a conversation with their health visitor.

And you could help them plan what they'd like to talk about. If you go with them, you could take notes to help them to remember the conversation. 

See our pages on helping someone else seek help for tips on how to help with doctor's appointments.

Help them research different options for support

This could include peer support groups or parenting groups. See our page on support and services for more information.

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

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

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