Your mental health as a parent

Having a baby is an intense experience for both parents that can result in a wide range of feelings and behaviours such as happiness, expectation and excitement, tiredness, worrying and feeling tearful. Most women will experience some mild temporary mood changes as part of the normal adjustment to motherhood known as ‘baby blues’. These feelings can impact on your experience of becoming a new parent and on your relationship with your partner and your baby. The range of mental health problems that women may experience or develop following the birth of a baby are the same as at other times in her life. 1 in 5 women experience feeling worried and anxious or low in mood.

Women who currently have a mental health problem, or have had one in the past, may experience a return or increase in the severity of their symptoms. Mental health problems are a n illness like any other, so please talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP if you have any of these feelings. There is a wide range of help, support and treatment available to you.

Treatment options may include talking therapies, medication, self-help materials and exercise. Some women who have a mental health problem stop taking their medication when their baby is born without seeking medical advice. This can result in a return or worsening of the symptoms they experience. You should not alter your medication without first seeking medical advice. There are medications that you can take whilst breastfeeding. Please speak to your GP, midwife, mental health team or health visitor for advice.

Women with a current severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorders or women who have had a previous psychotic illness, can experience a worsening or recurrence of symptoms after their birth. This will require urgent treatment. These women will receive close monitoring and support from a care co-ordinator either from a specialist perinatal mental health team or a community mental health team.

You will be asked about your emotional wellbeing at each contact after the birth of your baby with your midwife. These questions are asked to every new mother. The maternity team supporting you may identify that you are at risk of developing a mental health problem. If this happens they will discuss with you options for support and treatment. You may be offered a referral to a mental health team/specialist midwife/GP/health visitor. If you are concerned about your thoughts, feelings or behaviour, you should seek health and advice.

Further information can be found about post pregnancy mental health on the NHS website.