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.
What support and services are there?
There are various organisations, support services and health professionals who can support your mental health during pregnancy and after having a baby. This page has information about the main options.
These may include general health and pregnancy support services like:
There are also more specialist services to support you if you are at risk of becoming more unwell, or if you become more unwell. These include:
- perinatal mental health services
- community mental health teams (CMHTs) and crisis teams
- hospitals, and mother and baby units (MBUs)
Or you can access 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:
Getting the right support at the right time is so important. If you reach out and don't get heard the first time, keep trying.
General health and pregnancy support
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 are worried about having this conversation.
You are likely to be in contact with several different health professionals while you are pregnant. At some point, 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. You can also visit the NHS's Start4Life website for information about pregnancy and becoming a new parent.
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, or any difficult feelings or thoughts you're having.
They can let you know about other services in your area, or they might suggest that you speak to your doctor.
There are specialist mental health services in some parts of the country for anyone who is pregnant or has recently given birth. These are called perinatal mental health services. They include teams of specialist nurses and doctors, as well as specialist hospital wards called mother and baby units (MBUs).
If you've had certain mental health problems in the past, you are likely to be in contact with a perinatal mental health team throughout your pregnancy. This could include a past diagnosis of bipolar disorder or experience of psychosis. The perinatal mental health team can check how you're doing, assess your medication and plan your birth.
Unfortunately these services aren't available in all parts of the country, and accessing them can be difficult. You can contact Mind's Infoline for information about perinatal mental health services available in your area.
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.
Mother and baby units (MBUs) are specialist psychiatric wards in hospitals. You can be admitted to an MBU with your baby if you are having mental health problems during pregnancy or after giving birth.
The MBU can give you treatment and support for your mental health problem. They can also support you in developing parenting skills and bonding 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 are admitted to a regular psychiatric ward, you are unlikely to be able to keep your baby with you. If you do 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.
There are several voluntary organisations and charities who offer a range of support to families and new parents:
- Family Lives offers confidential support, information and advice for parents.
- Home Start offers a service which pairs you with a volunteer who visits you to offer practical and emotional support.
- Family Action offers specialist support services for parents with a mental health problem. This includes services during pregnancy and after giving birth.
- NCT runs a range of courses for new parents and has a membership that runs activities and social groups.
- The Association for Postnatal Illness (APNI) offers information and support about postnatal depression. This includes information for partners and carers.
- The Breastfeeding Network offers nationwide support about breastfeeding.
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.
It is okay to admit you're not perfect and need help. Most people will be glad to hear your experience so they can either get the courage to open up or take comfort that they are not alone.
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 for you.
If you don't feel like you're getting the help and support you need, you can bring this up with a health professional. See our pages on how to talk to your doctor for more advice.
You may also need 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 in seeking help, or you might want the support of an advocate. See our pages on advocacy for more information.
Or you might worry that asking for help for your mental health might mean your child is taken away from you. It is very rare for parents to be separated from their children for this reason. And there is lots of support available to help you make sure that this doesn't need to happen.
This information was published in April 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
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