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Looking After Your Mental Health In Pregnancy

Looking after your own wellbeing is the most important step to feeling well in pregnancy and getting ready for your new arrival. Taking care of yourself is good for you, your partner and the rest of the family. Take some time to check that you are eating well, getting enough rest. Spend time talking to your friends and family and ask them for the support you need.

It might feel like a lot of pressure to get everything ‘right’ during pregnancy and this might feel stressful.

Some people may have suffered with mental health problems before pregnancy. For others mental health needs may start during pregnancy and/or after their baby is born. Services are now much more aware of the importance of caring for people’s physical and emotional wellbeing during pregnancy and beyond. You do not have to cope alone.

You may have a history of mental health issues. Maybe you take medication for your mental health. You may feel worried about how having a baby will affect you.

Talk to your GP or Midwife as soon as possible in your pregnancy. Make an early appointment with your GP or the midwife who can make a plan of support with you.

  • You may worry that you will be judged, and people will think you are not able to be a good parent because you are finding things hard. Lots of parents who struggle at times with their mental health and are very good parents.

    Health professionals know this and want to support you. Your team will want to do everything they can to help you feel well and be able to enjoy being a parent to your child.

    Asking for help is always a positive step. You and your whole family will benefit from getting the right support.

  • Do not stop any medication you are taking for your mental health without medical advice. Even if you feel well it can be harmful to stop some medications suddenly.

    It may be that the medication you are on is safe in pregnancy. There may be a safe option you can take instead. It is very important you find this out from a health professional.

  • You may have had mental health problems in the past, a long term mental health condition or this may be the first time you have worried about this.

    It is normal to have a range of thoughts and feelings, both positive and negative, when you are getting ready for your baby to arrive.

    Talk to Someone

    The first step is to talk to someone about your worries and concerns;

    • Talk to family and friends – share how you feel and ask them if they have any worries about you.
    • Talk to health professionals.

    Be as honest as you can about how you are feeling. That way you can get the right help for you and your baby.

    If you are;

    • Having thoughts of hurting yourself.
    • having feelings about ‘not wanting to be here’.
    • Having any thoughts and feelings that are worrying you or loved ones.
    • Are worried about your partner.

    Seek support straight away. Call 111 or your GP for advice. If you feel at risk of harming yourself go to your local A&E department.

  • It is good to think about how you are feeling over a couple of weeks. It can help to write it down. You will be able to see if your mental health is affecting your day to day life and how you feel about your baby.

    Feeling ‘Low’
    When you feel ‘low’ you may feel; sad, anxious, worried, frustrated or angry – you might not know why you feel this way. It is normal to have some times when you feel down. You might feel better if;

    • You keep busy and see supportive friends and family.
    • You eat well and get enough rest.
    • You get out in the fresh air – a brisk walk can help release ‘feel good hormones’.

    Usually ‘feeling low’ will pass after a few days. You should have more time when you feel fine than when you don’t.

    Being Depressed
    If these feelings carry on you might notice every day feels like a struggle. You might find;

    • You have lost interest in things you used to enjoy.
    • You don’t want to be with family and friends.
    • You have low self-esteem.
    • You may notice changes in your sleeping and eating patterns.
    • You don’t want to think about your baby arriving.

    You should talk to your GP and or Midwife who can help you get the support you need to feel better. Looking after yourself is an important part of looking after your baby. Try to;

    • Eat well
    • Keep active
    • Get enough rest
    • Send time with people who care about you.

    Your healthcare team may suggest more ways to get you feeling better these might include medication and / or talking therapy.

    Feeling Worried
    It is natural to feel worried at times during your pregnancy. There is a lot to think about practically and emotionally. It can help to;

    • Talk to friends and family about how they felt when they were expecting.
    • Try the mindfulness relaxation technique here to calm down your worried thoughts and help with physical symptoms of anxiety; like a fast heart beat and feeling sick.

    Being Anxious
    If worried and anxious feelings mean you;

    • Feel restless, scared and like something bad will happen.
    • Have panic attacks that make it hard to carry on with your day.
    • Begin to avoid situations that make you feel anxious,
    • Feel you have to do certain things in a certain way like cleaning/handwashing to keep safe.

    This might mean that you need extra support to get the anxiety under control. The right treatment will help stop it getting in the way of you doing the things you want, and need, to do. Your health care team can help you get support to ‘take back control’ when you feel panicky. Taking control of how you think can make a big difference your anxiety. Feeling less anxious will free up ‘headspace’ to be able to enjoy your pregnancy. It will give you the chance to grow your confidence that you will be a good parent.

  • During pregnancy and the first year of your baby’s birth there are extra mental health services to assess how best to support you. In Norfolk our Perinatal Community Mental Health team are there if you are suffering with a mental health condition that;

    • Makes living your life harder a lot of the time
    • Have suffered with serious mental illness in the past.

    The service aims to help you stay well during pregnancy and after the baby arrives. They will also offer advice if you have a history of mental ill health and are planning a pregnancy.You can discuss whether you are eligible for this with your GP and/or your Midwife.

    You will be assessed to ensure you get the right support, from the right service, at the right time. They will help you make a plan of care that suits your needs and makes sure everyone involved in your care knows how best to help you keep mentally well.

    The whole team are there to help you have a good experience during pregnancy, birth and beyond.

    Partners can also access the best support for them by seeing their GP and asking for a review of how best to keep mentally well as they become parents. This is important for you all and will help you build and keep healthy relationships with your growing family.

  • The mental wellbeing of parents is important; keeping well will help you feel more able to manage the challenges of a new baby. Being mentally well will allow you to enjoy this special time as a family. It does not have to take long.

    Preparing for a baby alongside already busy lives can mean that we do not allow time to relax and think about ourselves and the new member of the family.

    • Try relaxation techniques where you focus on keeping your breathing slow and steady. *Click Here* for more relaxation ideas.
    • Have a warm bath and/ or listen to calming music. Picture your baby and the things you are looking forward to doing with them.
    • Get out in nature.
    • Make something – focusing on a craft project can distract you from difficult feelings even if it just lasts a short time.

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text Chathealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of the Healthy Child Programme team.

See, Hear, Respond - Best Beginnings and Barnado's are providing free support to pregnant families and new parents struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other parents who are going through or have been through this before can be a big help. You could join our online forum to speak to other Norfolk Parents below.

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