having a baby

Having a baby is one of the most life changing experiences you can face.  This can bring up a whole range of different emotions and challenges.  

Whilst it can be an exciting and happy time, it can also be a stressful and worrying time.  Many expectant and new parents find their mental well-being affected by this change.  One in five expectant/new mums and one in ten expectant/new dads experience some sort of mental illness in this period.  Many more experience low mood and poor mental well-being.  

The perinatal period simply means the period before and after birth.  It includes both the antenatal (before birth) and postnatal/postpartum (after birth) time periods.   

Perinatal mental health refers to mental illness during this period. 

We all have mental health.  Sometimes it is good and sometimes it is poor.  Big life changes, such a having a baby, can affect your mental well-being.  We support parents who feel like they are not feeling the way they hoped, who are struggling with difficult emotions or have a perinatal mental illness. 

signs and symptoms

There are many different symptoms of perinatal mental illness.  You may have only a few of these symptoms, or most of them.  If you identify with any of these symptoms, please speak to someone about it.  

Of course some are part of being a new parent.  But this doesn't mean you should suffer in silence.  The sooner you get support, the sooner you will feel better.

  There is support and treatment, and you deserve to enjoy your experience as an expectant or new parent.

  • Depressed mood - feeling down, not enjoy things you used to enjoy 
  • Anxiety - feeling worried, panicked, stressed 
  • Exaggerated fears - thinking the worst will happen or thinking of all the different scenarios 
  • Sleep disturbance - not being able to sleep when you get the chance
  • Appetite disturbance - loss of appetite or binge eating 
  • Exhaustion/fatigue 
  • Tearfulness or feeling overwhelmingly emotional 
  • Loss of libido
  • Irritability - snapping and losing your temper more often than usual 
  • Guilt/shame
  • Feeling a failure and not a good enough parent
  • Social withdrawal
  • Poor concentration and memory loss
  • Suicidal ideas/plans

Find out more about the different types of perinatal mental illness here:

Harming yourself or others

If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, you need to seek help immediately.  

You can speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor (asking for an emergency appointment) 

or call NHS 111.  

You can also call the Samaritans on 

Tel: 08457 909090

Email: Jo@samaritans.org


If you feel you or others are at immediate risk please call 999 or go to your local A&E department where you can get urgent and specialist help. 

Will I Hurt My Baby?

You may experience horrible thoughts about harming your baby, or imagining all the scenarios where your baby could get hurt.  These are known as intrusive thoughts.  This does not mean you will actually act on these thoughts but it is a sign that you need some more support.  Intrusive thoughts are recognised as part of perinatal mental illness and you will not be judged by seeking help. 

Next Steps

If you identify with these symptoms, please get in touch for a confidential conversation with one of the Cocoon team.  You can, and will, get better with the right support.