I'm stressed about everything. Will this affect my baby?

It’s natural to get a bit stressed in pregnancy. But if you feel like you can’t cope then do ask for help.

There are no rules about how stressed you should be before talking to your midwife or GP about it. You can always talk to a healthcare professional if you have concerns at any point during your pregnancy. 

The sooner you ask for help, the sooner you can get the right support, if you need it.

Being concerned about whether anxiety or stress will affect your baby is natural, but it can also create a vicious cycle of thoughts.

You may be feeling anxious, then begin to worry that this could affect your baby, so become even more anxious.

You can help protect your baby from the effects of any stress or anxiety by getting the right treatment and support. So, try to focus on asking for help and finding ways to manage your symptoms.

How stressed or anxious should I be before I ask for help?

Talk to your midwife or GP at any time if you’re worried about your mental health. It’s so important to ask for help if you’re having tough feelings all the time, or if you feel you can’t cope. 

Trust yourself and your loved ones. You are the best judges of whether your feelings, and behaviour, are normal for you.

Pregnancy can be very emotional. Some pregnant women feel distressed or guilty about feeling anxious when they feel they should be happy. 

Healthcare professionals won’t judge you for how you feel. Their focus will be on finding ways to help you stay well so that you can take care of yourself and your baby.

You should speak to them if:

  • you’ve been feeling low, depressed or anxious most of the time for more than two weeks
  • anxiety is making you feel ill, with: a fast heartbeat, fast breathing, sweating, feeling faint, feeling sick and diarrhoea
  • you have panic attacks
  • unpleasant thoughts keep coming back and you can’t control them
  • you find yourself repeating an action (like washing, checking, or counting) to feel better. This could be a sign of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • you are so afraid of giving birth that you don’t want to go through with it
  • you feel like you can’t cope.

You'll be offered help based on your symptoms and how bad they are. Help will also depend on your local services and what you and your healthcare professional think will work.

Higher risk of mental health problems during pregnancy

You are not alone if you're finding it hard to cope. Women and birthing people are more likely to have mental health issues during pregnancy than at other times in their life. This includes those who have never had mental health problems before. 

Up to 1 in 5 people have mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth. Low mood, anxiety and depression are common. Midwives and doctors are aware of this and should be ready to support you.

If you feel that you cannot cope, talk to your midwife or doctor as soon as you can. Take a family member or friend with you if it helps. 

You won’t be judged for having these feelings. In fact, you should feel proud of yourself for asking for help and taking steps towards feeling better. 

I have an existing mental health problem 

Even if a mental health condition is well managed right now, your symptoms could come back or get worse during pregnancy or in the weeks or months after the birth. This can sometimes happen quickly after childbirth and can become serious.

Do not stop taking medicine for mental health problems before talking to a doctor. This can lead to withdrawal, or it could make your symptoms come back or get worse.

Your healthcare team will talk to you about any prescribed medications you are taking and what your options are. These may include:

  • taking prescribed medications if you are not taking any yet
  • staying on your current medication
  • changing to something with a lower risk of side effects for you and your baby
  • stopping your medication gradually
  • using other treatments instead, such as talking therapies.

“Talking therapy worked the best for me. I felt lighter at the end of every session, even though I used to dread going to it every week. I was able to work through so much before my second child was born that I felt much more in control the second time around. It saved me.”


To help you decide on the best course of action, your healthcare professional will talk to you about:

  • how unwell you have been in the past
  • how quickly you have become unwell after stopping medication
  • what treatments have helped you the most
  • whether any medications have caused side effects.

Where to get help

Telling your midwife, GP or health visitor how you feel is a great first step. They will ask you some questions to get a better idea of your symptoms. This will help them talk to you about what support might help you to feel better.

Tell them if you’ve had a mental health issue before, so they can make sure you have the right care and support in place. 

If there are things outside of the pregnancy that you are worried about, such as housing, money worries or relationship concerns, it’s worth telling your midwife or doctor about these, too. 

They may well be able to put you in touch with people who can help you to sort those things out.

If you have a mental health condition, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published a list of questions for you to ask your healthcare provider to help you find out more. 

If you don’t get the answers you need, it’s fine to ask a different member of your care team for help instead.

Have a look at our ideas for coping with stress and top tips for looking after your emotional wellbeing.

Find out more about where and when to get support with your mental health.

Pais, M., & Pai, M.V. (2018). 'Stress among pregnant women: A systematic review'. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, vol. 12. DOI:10.7860/JCDR/2018/30774.11561

Caparros-Gonzalez, R. A. et al. (2021) 'Stress During Pregnancy and the Development of Diseases in the offspring: A Systematic-Review and Meta-Analysis'. Midwifery, Volume 97, 102939. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2021.102939.

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (2017) Maternal Mental Health – Women’s Voices. Available at: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/information/maternalmental-healthwomens-voices.pdf (Accessed February 2024) (Page last reviewed 02/17)

NICE (2020) Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg192 (Accessed February 2024) (Page last reviewed 11/02/2020)

Review dates
Reviewed: 22 February 2024
Next review: 22 February 2027