for better mental health

Postnatal depression and perinatal mental health

Explains postnatal depression and other perinatal mental health problems, including possible causes, treatments and support options. Also has information for friends and family, including support and advice for partners.

This page is for family and friends who want to support someone experiencing a perinatal mental health problem.

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

It might feel upsetting and frustrating if someone close to you is experiencing a perinatal mental health problem. But it's important not to blame them for how they are feeling.

Some people who experience perinatal mental health problems might not want to ask for help. This may be out of fear that they are judged as a bad parent, or because they worry that their baby will be taken away from them.

You to reassure them that many people have these experiences, and that they can get better. Here are some ways you can help:

Make time for them

You might want to offer to help your friend or family member, but worry that this is intruding on their private time. Or you may worry that they don't feel able to ask for your support.

But it's always worth offering to help. There are a few ways you can do this:

Offer to spend casual time with them

Just having some company while getting on with daily tasks and looking after their baby can help them feel less isolated.

Make time to keep in touch

If your friend or family member is struggling with their mental health, it can make a big difference if they feel that you're thinking of them and want to spend time together.

Suggest activities that you used to do together

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

Offer to go to parent-child groups or activities together

This can help if your friend or family member feels nervous about going to a group on their own.

Be patient

These are some ideas for helping your friend or family member with their mental health, and being patient with them if they are struggling:

Give them space

You friend or family member may feel guilty if they don't have lots of time to spend with other people, or if they can't reply to messages. You could let them know that they only need to see you or respond to you whenever they feel able. Or simply send them a message to tell them that you are thinking of them, but they don't need to send a response.

Learn about perinatal mental health

If you're worried about how to talk to them about their mental health, try reading the rest of these pages to learn more. You might then find it easier to talk about, especially if they're finding difficult to open up about how they feel.

Listen to them

Try to keep the focus on your friend or family member rather than coming back to your own feelings. Unless you have experienced being a new parent, it might not help to compare things to your own experiences.

Don't judge

If they open up about distressing thoughts, try not to judge them. It's likely to be very difficult for them to talk about these sorts of thoughts. Try to listen and offer support where possible.

"It took at least a year for me to overcome my post natal depression, and nearly resulted in the breakdown of my relationship."

Offer practical support

The best way to find out what your friend or family member needs is to ask them. But if they feel very low, they might find it difficult to make suggestions. You might want to offer to:

  • do cleaning, laundry and other household tasks
  • help to cook and do the shopping
  • look after the baby, so your friend or family member can get some sleep or have some time for themselves.

Support them to get help

You friend or family member might feel daunted about asking for help with their mental health or with parenting. They may worry that people will think they're a bad parent. There are a few ways you can help with this:

Offer to help them arrange a doctor's appointment

See our pages on helping someone else seek help for tips on how to provide this support. 

Go with them to appointments

You could offer to look after their baby or older children while they go to appointments. Or you could help them plan what they'd like to talk about.

Help them research different options for support

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

This information was published in April 2020. We will revise it in 2023.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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