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Self-care for perinatal mental health

Becoming a new parent can be a very stressful experience. Finding ways to look after yourself, that fit around your responsibilities and needs, can help your mental health. 

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

Talk to someone you trust

Talking to someone about how we're feeling can help. 

It can feel uncomfortable to talk about something so personal. But explaining how your feelings are affecting your life may help others to understand. And they may be able to help.

Our information about seeking help for a mental health problem has tips for talking about your mental health.

Admitting out loud that I had a problem was the hardest and best thing I have ever done.

Build your support network

It can be reassuring to talk to other new parents about how you're feeling. You may find that they've had similar feelings. Discussing your mental health with people who've had similar experiences is often called peer support.

Research shows that peer support can lower feelings of depression and anxiety in new parents. It can also give you a chance to share skills. And get some emotional and practical support. This could help you feel more confident as a new parent.

You might find that socialising with other parents makes you feel more anxious or stressed. It's important to only do these things if you want to and if you feel ready to. 

These are some ideas you could try.

Go to local parent-and-baby groups

If you're feeling nervous about being around new people, try doing something based around an activity. This might make it easier to start talking to other parents. For example, you could try doing music or yoga. The National Childbirth Trust has some more information about finding a local parent and baby group near you.

There are also antenatal groups for parents who are expecting babies. You can ask your midwife or doctor for more information about these.

But don't feel under pressure to go to lots of groups. All parents are different, so do what works for you.

If you're interested in going to a group but are feeling nervous, contact the class provider in advance. That way you know what to expect. You can take someone with you for support too.

With my group though, it turns out that I am in fact, still nurturing. I’m still a friend and a mother, and I still care

Seek support online

There are lots of online communities where you can share your experiences of being a parent and living with a mental health problem.

Websites like netmums have forums where you can talk to other parents. You could also try Side by Side, Mind's online peer support community.

Our pages on looking after your mental health online have tips on getting a good online/offline balance and staying safe.

The only help I did get was anonymously online. It still helps me now and that's what kept me going really, connecting with people in online groups and reading advice.

Contact specialist organisations

There are many organisations that have information and opportunities to find peer support:

  • Organisations like Home-Start and NCT help new parents to develop their support networks and look after their mental health.
  • Action on Postpartum Psychosis runs a peer support network for anyone with experience of postpartum psychosis.
  • PANDAS runs support groups for perinatal mental health problems.
  • OCD-UK and OCD Action run peer support groups and online forums where you can talk to other people living with OCD. OCD Action has an online perinatal OCD support group.
  • The Birth Trauma Association offers peer support for postnatal PTSD.

See our useful contacts page for other organisations that can help. Or you can contact your local Mind to see if they offer any peer support groups or other support in your area.

Find ways to manage daily tasks

Coping with household tasks while pregnant or looking after a baby can be tough for anyone. But it can feel even harder if you're living with perinatal mental health problems.

Finding ways to manage day-to-day tasks can help take the pressure off. It can also make you feel more able to cope with the symptoms of your mental health problem.

These are some ideas which may help.

Accept help 

If there are people who want to give you practical help, try to accept it. Think about what would be most helpful to you. For example, help with shopping, cooking meals or cleaning.

Cook meals in advance

When you're feeling well and have more energy, it can help to plan ahead for times when you don't feel well. You could batch-cook meals in advance and freeze them. Then you have access to fast and healthy meals when you're feeling unwell.

You could also use a meal subscription service, if you can afford it. Or get food shopping delivered to your home.

Take it slowly

It's easy to feel overwhelmed while you're pregnant or when you're looking after a baby.

Try setting yourself 20 minutes to do as much of a task as you can. For example, throwing things in the washing machine or sorting through paperwork. Or you could write one thing down every day that you would like to achieve.

This can make tasks feel more manageable. It can help you take advantage of getting a little bit done when you feel able.

Be kind to yourself if you don't do something as you planned to. Or if you find yourself feeling worse again. Everyone has their own response and it's important to take things at your own pace.

The person I found it useful to talk to was another mum of older twins, as she knew what it was like and had come through. She suggested only focusing on what you needed to do to get through the day rather than worrying too much about beyond that.

Look after your wellbeing

It might feel hard to find time to think about yourself while pregnant or looking after a baby. Making small changes can help you look after your mental health.

These are some ways to help take care of yourself.

Set boundaries

Try to set boundaries with those close to you. This can help avoid things becoming too overwhelming.

For example, if people would like to visit, you could tell them before that you only feel up to them staying for an hour or two. Or that you'd prefer for them not to touch or hold your baby, if this is something you're worried about. People will understand and want to support you.

Recognise your triggers

Try keeping a diary of your moods and what's going on in your life. You don't have to write down very much. You could also try recording it. This might help you recognise patterns or notice what affects your mental health.

You might find that certain experiences or people trigger flashbacks or other difficult feelings.

It might help you notice what's happening before you become more unwell. And to know when to ask for support.

Try not to compare yourself to other people

It can be easy to compare yourself to other parents and their achievements. On social media, we often only see positive images of parenthood. This can make us feel worse.

Try to remember that you don't know what's happening behind the scenes. If you can, try to concentrate on yourself and your own needs.

I had come from a big, responsible, job and yet this simple job, a job that billions of women took in their stride everyday, was proving too much for me

Keep active

Physical activity can boost your mood. It can also distract you from any thoughts making you anxious. And it can help you feel like you're getting to do some things for yourself.

Getting active could include going for a walk with the pram, dancing to music at home or doing gentle yoga.

But remember that our energy levels will vary on different days. It's fine to slow down or take a break.

See our pages on physical activity and mental health for more tips.

Take time to relax

You might feel like you have no time for yourself. Or that all you do is sit around at home.

Try to take a bit of time to do something that makes you feel good, even if it's a few minutes. And think about what really helps you unwind, whether it's reading a book, watching TV or doing crafts. 

There are many other ways to relax. See our pages on relaxation for more ideas.

My mental health is something I will always need to work on and improve at times. But I truly urge other mums to understand the importance of taking care of yourself. If you can do this, taking care of your children becomes more manageable

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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