Below you will find a range of information relating to poor mental well-being and perinatal mental illnesses. Becoming a new parent is life changing, sometimes joyous, but also sometimes incredibly difficult. It is important to remember we all have 'mental health' - sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not so good. Lots of factors play a part in how we feel, and you are not to blame for finding this transition hard.
In this section you will find some information about common issues that arise through pregnancy and parenthood and issues that may be contributing to poor mental well-being. Scroll down to find out more information about specific perinatal mental illness.
For some people, pregnancy loss or the previous loss of a baby may be part of what causes a mental health problem – or makes one worse. You might be given a diagnosis (like post-traumatic stress disorder) or experience symptoms that make life difficult for a long time. This can also contribute to anxiety, particularly throughout the pregnancy period.
The following organisations can provide specific support:
The Miscarriage Association
Sands, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity
Bliss - for babies born premature or sick
The 'baby blues' is a brief period of feeling emotional around three to 10 days after giving birth, which affects many new mothers. It's natural to feel emotional and overwhelmed after experiencing childbirth and becoming a parent, especially as you're likely to be coping with a lot of new demands on your time and attention, as well as getting little sleep. Although having the baby blues may be distressing, it's important to be aware that it doesn't last long – usually only a few days – and is generally quite manageable.
However if this feeling continues over a week it is important to speak to your midwife, GP or health visitor about how you are feeling.
The NHS has some great information about feelings after birth:
Strong relationships have a positive effect on our mental well-being. They can provide us with a sense of security, happiness and a feeling of companionship. Conversely those in troubled relationships have a much higher risk of developing depression.
Having a baby can place a great deal of stress of relationships. Whether you are snappy because of lack of sleep or just overwhelmed with the responsibility, it is easy for relationships to be negatively affected.
Poor mental health can also result in communication difficult, 'shutting the other person out' or anger and resentment.
Relate, the relationship charity, has great advice on managing your relationship with a new baby:
One of the most unspoken issues about becoming a new parent is the issue of loneliness. Whilst almost always with your baby, you can feel shut off from your old life, old friends and just a social life in general.
Children Centres are a great place to start, they have a range of activities open to new parents. Most will give you a tour or provide one to one support if you are nervous about attending groups and activities on your own. Alternatively contact your local Home-Start to request a volunteer who can support you getting out and about.
The wonderful website Emma's Diary has a great article about how to counter loneliness:
Now you are a parent - but what about who you were before? It is very common to struggle with the transition to parenthood. This is especially true for first time parents - after all it isn't only a baby that that is born, but a mum and dad too.
Whilst becoming a parent can be amazing, it can also feel like you've lost some of the person you were before. Suddenly life revolves around this little person and your independence and flexibility is restricted. Maybe before the baby, you were focused on your career and suddenly feel at a loss not going to work everyday.
If you identify with any of these feelings, please check out the following article:
We live in a world of comparison - we see snapshots of people's lives on social media and believe they have it all together. Recent research shows that six in ten new parents feel like a failure, so you really are not alone.
Be kind to yourself - believe you are enough.
Speak honestly and with authenticity - share your experiences with people you trust
Find your tribe - coming to a peer support group gives you a chance to meet others who feel similarly
Limit your time on social media
Mind has tips on how to improve your self esteem:
Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the perinatal period. Postnatal depression (PND) is quite well known but it is also possible to have depression during pregnancy.
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives.
Birth trauma is where the birth experience was extremely stressful, negative or frightening. This can have a long lasting effect on mental well-being and the bond with the baby.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder. The term is often misused in daily conversation – for example, you might hear people talk about being 'a bit OCD' if they like things to be neat and tidy. But the reality of this disorder is a lot more complex and serious.
Postpartum psychosis (PP) is a serious, but rare, diagnosis occurring in around one in 1,000 births. You're likely to experience a mix of depression, anxiety and psychosis.
Most women will feel nervous about pregnancy and birth. However, tokophobia is an extreme fear and phobia of birth.
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