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.
If you experience anxiety while you are pregnant or after giving birth, this may be called:
Lots of people are aware that you can become depressed after having a baby. But many people also experience anxiety during pregnancy and after giving birth. In fact, it is common to experience depression and anxiety together.
The information on this page is about perinatal anxiety, so it is relevant if you are experiencing either prenatal or postnatal anxiety. It covers:
The common effects of perinatal anxiety on your body include:
The common effects of perinatal anxiety on your mind include:
The talking therapy you are most likely to be offered for anxiety is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Your local mental health services may also run specific counselling or group programmes for anxiety. You can speak to your doctor or contact your local services to find out what is available.
See our pages on talking therapy and counselling for more information.
Your doctor could give you access to online CBT programmes to try yourself. Or they may prescribe self-help books to help you learn to manage your anxiety.
There are several types of medication that can help to manage anxiety. If you have any concerns about taking medication, you can talk to your doctor or pharmacist. This includes discussing any concerns about taking medication during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
See our page on talking to your GP if you're worried about having this conversation.
You may be offered a combination of a talking therapy and medication. Many people find that taking medication helps them feel stable enough to get the most out of a talking therapy. But others find medication or talking therapies are more helpful on their own.
If there are long waiting lists for talking therapies in your area, your doctor may recommend that you try an alternative to therapy. These can help you manage your mental health while you are on the waiting list.
See our page on treatments for anxiety for more information.
"I was dealing with panic attacks, and distressing thoughts about my baby being better off without me."
If you're feeling anxious about something right now, try to shift your focus onto something small, like the details of a picture or the texture of something you're wearing.
If you can, try to keep your thoughts entirely on this one thing, really taking in all the small details. This can help you take a moment to calm down.
This can help distract you from any thoughts making you anxious, and also use up some of the anxious energy you might be feeling.
It doesn't have to be playing a sport or going to the gym. For example, you might want to go for a walk or do some physical activity around the house, like tidying.
See our pages on physical activity and your mental health for more ideas.
For more ideas, see our page on ways to look after your mental health when becoming a parent.
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.