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Support and services for perinatal mental health

Learn about different types of support and services for your mental health while you're pregnant, and after having a baby.

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

These services may include general health and pregnancy support like:

There are also specialist services that can support you if you become more unwell. Or if there's a risk that you'll become more unwell. These services include:

Or you can get support and services through voluntary organisations and charities.

We also have information on what to do if you don't get the support that you need

If you want to find out about the treatment options for a specific mental health diagnosis, see our pages on:

Your GP

You can always talk to your doctor about your mental health. They can discuss your options for treatment and support, refer you to services and prescribe medication. 

See our page on talking to your doctor if you're worried about discussing your mental health. 

Antenatal care

You're likely to be in contact with several health professionals while you're pregnant. They should ask you about your mental health and how you're feeling during pregnancy. If they don't ask, you can always bring up any concerns you have.

The NHS website has information about the health professionals who may support you during pregnancy. The NHS's Start4Life website also has information about pregnancy and becoming a new parent.

Your health visitor

Your health visitor can offer support for looking after your baby and managing your mental health. You can also talk to them about anything you're worried about. This includes any difficult feelings or thoughts you have.

They can let you know about other services in your area. Or they might suggest that you speak to your doctor.

Perinatal mental health services

There are specialist perinatal mental health services in some parts of the country. They're for people who are pregnant or have recently given birth. And who have a serious mental health problem, or are at risk of one.

They include teams of specialist nurses and doctors, as well as specialist hospital wards.

You may be put in contact with a perinatal mental health team. This is most likely if you've had certain mental health problems in the past. This could include a past diagnosis of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or experience of psychosis.

The perinatal mental health team can check how you're doing, assess your medication and plan your baby's birth. They can also help develop your confidence in being a parent. 

Unfortunately these services aren't available in all areas of England and Wales. They can be difficult to access, or there may be long waiting times. You can speak to your GP or midwife for more information about services in your area.

Community mental health teams (CMHTs) and crisis teams

If you have a diagnosed mental health problem, you may already be in contact with your local CMHT or crisis team. They may be able to support you if there aren't any specialist perinatal mental health services near you.

See our information on CMHTs and crisis teams to find out more.

The crisis team were there for me 24 hours a day. They visited me at home if I felt I needed a home visit, making sure I was eating and getting my daily exercise. They were so reassuring with all the disturbing thoughts I was having, telling me that I wasn’t going to act upon them, it was just part of my OCD.

Mother and baby units (MBUs) and hospitals

Mother and baby units (MBUs) are specialist psychiatric wards in hospitals. You might be admitted to an MBU if you have symptoms of serious mental health problems late in your pregnancy. Or if you have these symptoms after giving birth, you and your baby might be admitted.

The MBU can give you specialist treatment and support for your mental health problem. They can also help you develop parenting skills and bond with your baby.

Unfortunately there are very few MBUs around the country. And there are a limited number of places in each MBU. The Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) website has a map showing the locations of MBUs around the UK.

If you can't go to an MBU, you might be admitted to a regular psychiatric ward until an MBU is available. If this happens, you're unlikely to be able to keep your baby with you. If you have to be away from your baby while you're being treated, it should only be for as long as is needed to keep you safe.

See our page on treatment in hospital for more information.

Blogger Charlie smiling

The baby I was holding didn't feel like mine

It took me about 10 months to learn that I have always loved my son and he has always loved me.

Voluntary organisations and charities

There are several voluntary organisations and charities that support families and new parents:

  • Family Action offers specialist support services for parents with a mental health problem. This includes services during pregnancy and after giving birth.
  • Home-Start has a service that pairs you with a volunteer who can visit you to offer practical and emotional support.
  • NCT runs a range of courses for new parents and has a membership that runs activities and social groups.
  • The Association for Post Natal Illness (APNI) offers information and support about postnatal depression. This includes information for partners and carers.
  • The Breastfeeding Network offers nationwide support about breastfeeding when you have a mental health problem.

See our useful contacts page for details of other organisations who may be able to help. This includes organisations who can help if you have a specific mental health diagnosis.

What if I don't get the support that I need?

The symptoms of perinatal mental health problems can change a lot from day to day. It might be hard for health professionals, like your doctor or midwife, to understand what you're experiencing and offer the right support.

If you don't feel like you're getting the support you need, you can talk to a health professional. See our pages on how to talk to your doctor for more advice.

You may have to ask a few times to get the support you need. This can be difficult when you're struggling with your mental health.

You can ask someone you trust to support you to seek help. Or you might want the support of an advocate. See our pages on advocacy 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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