Getting help and support with mental health

Midwives and others in your care team are there to support you with your emotional health as well as physical health.

When should I ask for help?

It’s natural to have periods of feeling worried or low when you’re pregnant or after birth. But it’s important to ask for help if you’re having bad feelings all the time or you feel you can’t cope.

Pregnancy can be a very emotional experience and it can sometimes be difficult to know whether your feelings are manageable or a sign of something more serious. Trust yourself. You are the best judge of whether your feelings are normal for you.

Mental health problems such as low mood, anxiety  and depression in pregnancy are common. Up to 1 in 5 women develop them during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth.

You won’t be judged for how you feel. Your pregnancy care team understand that mental health conditions can affect anyone at any time. They will help you stay well so you can look after yourself and your baby.

"My manager at work got me counselling under an employee assistance scheme. It was six sessions...It made a huge difference to me and how I felt. I felt a lot less angry." Theresa, mum of one. Read more...

Your midwife will ask you some questions to see if you need support with mental health during your booking appointment. But it is not uncommon for mental health problems to start at other points during pregnancy and you can talk to your midwife, doctor or health visitor at any time if you:

  • feel low or anxious most of the time for more than two weeks
  • lose interest in things you normally like
  • have panic attacks
  • feel worthless or guilty
  • lose your appetite
  • have unpleasant thoughts that keep coming back and you can’t control them
  • find yourself repeating an action (like washing, checking, counting) to feel better
  • feel severely depressed or extremely energetic and talkative
  • You are so afraid of giving birth that you don’t want to go through with it.
  • have thoughts about suicide.

If you’re feeling like you want to die, it’s important to tell someone. This could be a family member, friend, your GP or midwife. Help is available now if you need it. You can call the Samaritans on 116 123.

You should also tell your midwife or doctor if you have (or have had) an eating disorder, as you may need special support to deal with your body’s changes through pregnancy and beyond.

If you aren’t happy with how the midwife, health visitor or doctor responds to what you tell them, or you feel like they are not listening to you, don’t be afraid to ask to see a different health professional.

If you are still worried that no one is listening, contact the day assessment unit (DAU) within the maternity unit.

"If you don't get the reaction you need when you speak to the first person, find someone else because every person who you ask is different and you will find the person who can help you." Stephanie, mum of two. Read more...

Mental wellbeing and the booking appointment

At your booking appointment, the midwife will ask you questions about your mental and physical health so that they can find out whether you need any extra support. Every woman is asked these questions. Your midwife will ask you how you’re feeling and whether you or anyone in your family has a mental health problem (or had one in the past). Even if you don’t have a specific mental health issue, it’s a good idea to talk to the midwife if you’re feeling anxious or feel like you are isolated and do not have support.

The midwife will ask some questions to see if you are at risk of having depression or anxiety. They may ask if you have:

  • felt down, depressed or hopeless during the past month
  • had little interest or pleasure in doing things during the past month
  • been feeling nervous, anxious or on edge during the past month
  • been unable to stop or control worrying during the past month.

The midwife will also ask you if you have:

  • or have ever had a mental health condition
  • been treated by a specialist mental health service
  • a close relative who had a severe mental illness during pregnancy or after birth.

If the midwife thinks you need more support, she’ll refer you to your GP who may refer you to a specialist mental health service.

It’s important to be honest with the midwife about how you feel. They won’t criticise you, and will help you get the support and treatment  you need.

“That was all I needed, to get it out, to speak to somebody and to feel that I wasn’t completely alone."
Sarah, mum of one.

Find out more about the treatment and support available.

Organisations that can support you

There are many organisations that can offer you information and support. Some have online forums and local support groups where you can share your feelings with other women. Others are national charities that specialise in improving mental health.

“At that point I’d try anything they had to offer. At first I thought the CBT would be a load of rubbish, but I’d definitely recommend it now."Katie, mum of one. Read more...

The Wellbeing Plan

The Wellbeing Plan is a tool that helps you start thinking about how you feel and what support you might need in your pregnancy and after the birth.

You can use it to help you talk to your partner, family, friends or midwife about how you are feeling. You can also keep it private if you want to.

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (February 2017) Maternal Mental Health – Women’s Voices

Review dates
Reviewed: 17 October 2018
Next review: 17 October 2021

This content is currently being reviewed by our team. Updated information will be coming soon.