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.

How can I look after myself?

Becoming a new parent can be a very stressful experience. Finding ways to look after yourself that fit in with your responsibilities and needs can make a big difference to your mental health. Here are some ideas:

Talking to other new parents, and finding that they share the anxieties and frustrations you are experiencing, can be very reassuring.

It can also give you a chance to share skills and experiences, realise that you are not alone and get some emotional and practical support. It can help you feel more confident as a new parent.

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.

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

Contact specialist organisations

Organisations like Home-Start and NCT help new parents to develop their support networks and look after their mental health.

Access online support

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. Mind runs an online peer support community called Elefriends for anyone who wants support for their mental health.

See our page on online mental health tools for more information.

Try peer support

Peer support brings together people with similar experiences, so they can share those experiences and tips to help each other cope.

Many organisations run peer support programmes for people with perinatal mental health problems. For example: 

  • Action Postpartum Psychosis runs a peer support network for anyone with experience of postpartum psychosis. 
  • PANDAS runs support groups for perinatal mental health problems.
  • Or you can also contact your local Mind to see if they offer any peer support groups in your area.

See our pages on peer support for more information.

"I finally found the strength to open up and share my experience with others. I was so surprised to find I was not unique, and found comfort knowing others had been through the same. We found ways to help each other and overcome difficult times."

Coping with household tasks while pregnant or while looking after a new baby can be a challenge for anyone.

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 you have people close to you who want to do something practical to help, there is nothing wrong with accepting their support. For example, they might help you with shopping, cooking meals or cleaning.

Cook meals in advance

You can make planning food easier by batch-cooking meals in advance and freezing them. Take advantage of times when you have more energy to cook, so you've got access to fast and healthy meals when you're feeling unwell.

Take it slowly

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

Taking things 20 minutes at a time can make tasks feel more manageable. It can help you take advantage of getting a little bit done whenever you feel able.

Don't pressure yourself

You might want to keep up with all the things you used to do around the house. But if you're also looking after a new baby, this takes up a lot of time and affects how much sleep you get.

Try not to set unrealistic standards for yourself or get too frustrated if you don't do the things you planned to.

Read Selina's blog about her own experience of postnatal depression.

Finding time to think about yourself while pregnant or looking after your baby may feel like a challenge. Making small changes can help you look after your mental health.

These are some ideas to help take care of yourself:

Keep active

This could be going for a walk with the pram, dancing to music at home or doing gentle yoga. Physical activity can boost your mood, and help you feel like you're getting to do some things for yourself.

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

Try to get some sleep

Getting good sleep with a new baby might sound impossible. But finding time to rest whenever you have the chance can make a big difference to your mental health.

Try sleeping when your baby sleeps or, if you can, ask your partner to help with feeding your baby during the night. 

See our pages on coping with sleep problems to find some tips which may help.

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

See our pages on relaxation for more ideas.

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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