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Maternal wellbeing and mental health

Information and resources on mental health and wellbeing during and after pregnancy.

Wellbeing in pregnancy

Pregnancy can be a very difficult time. It is a significant life event and a period of great change for yourself, your partner, and your family. As such, it can be especially challenging to look after your own wellbeing and mental health.

Some women who become pregnant can face difficulties with their mental wellbeing. It is not uncommon to have anxious thoughts about birth, experience low mood, or to find the journey during and after pregnancy to be difficult and overwhelming.

At times like this, it can be useful to access self-help resources and to get in touch with others for mutual help and support.

You can also speak to your community midwife or self-refer to the Maternal Emotional Wellbeing Clinic.

Mental well-being in pregnancy Strong birth capable
Mental well-being in pregnancy Strong birth capable

Self-help tips

  • Stay healthy. Have regular, nourishing meals
  • Try to stay physically active – even short walks can be helpful to clear your mind (especially if you are able to get in touch with nature)
  • Keep in touch with friends and family
  • Mindfulness can be helpful, and many apps or videos (see below) are freely available to guide you on your first steps
  • Engage with creative activities such as drawing, painting, or music

Mental illness in pregnancy (perinatal mental health)

One in five women may go on to develop mental illness during pregnancy and one year after giving birth. This may be related to mental illness that existed before pregnancy and are worsened during this period. Some women may develop mental illness for the first time. If untreated, this can have a significant impact on women and their families.

Recognition of and support for perinatal mental health in the UK has expanded significantly over the past few years. You can view a map detailing the growth and distribution of services here.

You can read some stories and experiences of mental illness during pregnancy shared by mothers, partners and family members here.

Examples of this include postnatal depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), postpartum psychosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Things to look out for include:

  • Low mood
  • Loss of motivation and enjoyment
  • Lack of concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations – these include hearing voices or seeing things which are not real
  • Feelings of paranoia, abnormal thoughts or beliefs
  • Abnormal behaviour
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares

These may require more help, beyond basic self-care and peer support. If you feel you need additional support, you should contact your GP, as they can monitor your mood on a regular basis. If you feel you need additional psychological support, you can self-refer to the Psychological Wellbeing Service (PWS) via www.cpft.nhs.uk or via telephone 0300 300 0055. You can also talk to your midwife, health visitor or obstetrician about how you are feeling.

The Psychological Wellbeing Service offers community-based support and therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, coping strategies, telephone support, other therapy approaches. The therapies are in group or on an individual basis and are free of charge.

If you are pregnant or just had your baby, you will prioritized by PWS. You can expect a phone call for an initial assessment within a couple of weeks after you self-referred, to discuss the best treatment plan for your needs.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, and need access to immediate help, please call the First Response Service on 111 and select option 2.

Further support is available through our local specialist perinatal mental health teams. For referral to the specialist team please talk to your GP or Midwife

Maternity patch with roses Maternity patch with face
Maternity patch with roses Maternity patch with face

Partner's wellbeing

Pregnancy and birth bring great changes and challenges to both you and your partner. This can impact your emotional wellbeing, especially if your partner is facing difficulties and/or mental illness during pregnancy. It is important that you look after your own wellbeing, while supporting your partner during and after their pregnancy.

Recent research suggests that one in ten fathers develop postnatal depression following the birth of their child. If your partner has been affected by perinatal mental health problems, you are at an increased risk of experiencing mental health problems yourself.

It is therefore particularly important that you know how to look after yourself, where you can access support, as well as knowing how to support your partner.

How to support your or partner (from ‘Maternal Mental Health: A survival Guide for Dads and Partners’)

  • The first step is to recognise and acknowledge that your wife or partner is ill right now.
  • Talk to her about it and find out more about maternal mental health problems for yourself.
  • Listen to her and take her worrying thoughts seriously. They may seem trivial and unwarranted to you, but to her they’re very serious and real
  • Try not to judge or criticise her. She’s probably doing a lot of that herself right now.
  • Reassure her that you are there for her and that things will improve in time.
  • Involve yourself as much as you can with the parenting and housework.

Groups and resources

Podcasts
  • Motherkind - Zoe Blaskey - brings you some of the best wellbeing teachers in the world to help you find your calm, happy place in the hectic pace of modern mum life.
  • Happy mum, happy baby podcasts - Giovanni Fletcher - Discusses all aspects of parenthood - the highs, the lows, the challenges and rewards
Attachment and bonding
National organisations with helplines
  • Association for Post-Natal Illness. An organisation for women suffering from any type of perinatal illness. (Tel: 020 7386 0868)
  • The Lullaby Trust. A charity that offers emotional support for bereaved families, as well as raising awareness of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and providing expert advice on safer sleep for babies. (Tel: 0808 802 6868)
  • The Miscarriage Association. A charity offering support and information to anyone affected by the loss of a baby in pregnancy, raising awareness and promoting good practice in medical care. (Tel: 01924 200799 Email: info@miscarriageassociation.org.uk)
  • PANDAS Foundation UK. Support and advice for any parent who is experiencing a perinatal mental illness. (Tel: 0843 2898 401 Email: info@pandasfoundation.org.uk)
  • Tamba. Twinline is Tamba’s listening service for parents of twins, triplets and more. All the calls are answered by volunteers who have multiples themselves. (Tel: 0800 138 0509
    Email: asktwinline@tamba.org.uk)
Information and support
  • Maternal Mental Health Alliance is a UK charity dedicated to ensuring women and families affected by perinatal mental problems have access to high-quality comprehensive care and support. This webpage lists a number of useful groups and self-help resources for mental health and wellbeing.
  • Cambridgeshire Child and Family Centres offer groups, events, activities, courses and support for families with children aged 0-19.
  • Mind offer a range of services, courses and support groups across Peterborough, Cambridgeshire and South Lincolnshire to support women aged over 18.
  • Keep Your Head contains a wealth of information on perinatal mental health and services, a collaboration by local Cambridgeshire & Peterborough NHS, voluntary sector and local authority organisations.
  • NCT is a leading charity for new parents providing information and support for the first 1,000 days as a parent, through pregnancy, birth and beyond.

Besides those linked above, social media is a great way to link up with local parenting and pregnancy support groups in your area.

Useful links for partners and family members

Below are some useful resources about perinatal mental health and information for partners and family members.

Links for partners and family members

Keep your head - Keep Your Head brings together reliable information on mental health and wellbeing for children, young people and adults across Cambridgeshire & Peterborough.

MIND parental mental health - Useful resource for parents with mental health problems and support tips

MIND 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

The Birth Trauma Association has information and support for partners of someone who experienced a difficult birth

Postpartum Psychosis: a guide for partners

Depression and low mood - A guide for partners

Dads Acacia - Family Support Acacia provides free support services for dads and partners who are affected by maternal mental health problems

Association for Postnatal Illness - a national charity providing advice and support to families affected by postnatal Illness

Action on Postpartum Psychosis- with the help of those who have been through Postpartum Psychosis, APP have produced a free Postpartum Psychosis Insider Guide for Partners. Use this link to get the free guide and access more in-depth information to read in Conjunction with the guide

Making Space, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Carer Support Service

Making Space, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Carer Support Service offers support to people caring for a family member or loved one with a mental health condition.

They can offer:

  • One to one support with a named support worker
  • Carer led organisation, with carers needs put first
  • Carer led groups across the county
  • Information sessions
  • Signposting to other services, organisations and charities
  • Information on mental health conditions

You can contact them to find out more:

Tel: 01480 211006

Email: C&PReferrals@makingspace.co.uk

Facebook: CambridgeshireCarerSupport

Parenting together support programme

Parenting Together Support Programme offers help to parents who feel that stress and conflict in their relationship is affecting the family. Support takes the form of one-to-one or group sessions delivered by experienced facilitators. Programmes are open to all eligible parents, mothers and fathers and same-sex parents. For couples who are together in a relationship or those who are separated. Courses are free and run locally. To find out more please visit: https://tavistockrelationships.org/?view=article&id=931:free-parenting-support&catid=45

Support for dads

Useful links and resources specifically aimed at supporting Dads.

  • Dr Andrew Mayers - An academic psychologist specialising in mental health, particularly perinatal mental health (Including fathers) and young people’s mental health. His website includes information on support for fathers’ mental health.
  • Dads matter UK - Support and information for dads worried about or suffering from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • The Fatherhood Institute- The UK’s fatherhood think-and-do tank.
  • Fathers Reaching Out - The website of Mark Williams, a campaigner, author and speaker on fathers’ mental health.
  • PANDAS Foundation - Amongst other support, offers closed Facebook groups for Dads.
  • Beyond Blue Dadvice - Website offering a four-part web series, Dadvice, following a group of new dads on their journey into fatherhood.
  • DadPad- A practical guide to gaining confidence and skills necessary to be the very best dad you can be. An essential guide for new dads, developed with the NHS. Can be bought for £12.00. Also available as an app.
  • Postpartum men - Offers support and information for fathers experiencing postnatal depression, including an online peer support forum.
Support for gay and lesbian parents