Treatment and support for mental health conditions

If you have a mental health problem during or after pregnancy, there is support and treatment that can help you.

Emotional changes are common during pregnancy. Speak to your GP or midwife if you’re feeling sad a lot of the time or your symptoms are having an impact on your daily life

The main treatments for mental health problems are self-help, talking therapies and medication.

What you are offered will depend on things like: 

  • what your symptoms are
  • how much your symptoms affect you
  • your wishes
  • what treatment and support is available near you.

Treatments that may work for some people may not help others. Your healthcare professional will be able to tell you about the benefits and risks of each option and help you decide what’s best for you.

Community support

Ask your midwife or GP what support there is where you live. For example, they may be able to offer you peer support. This involves being matched with a volunteer who has had the same mental health problem as you, who can support you.

Talking (psychological) therapies during pregnancy

Talking treatments are psychological therapies, where you talk about your feelings with a trained therapist. This may be one-to-one, in a group, over the phone, with a friend or family member, or with your partner.

It’s led by a trained therapist, who helps you find ways of working through your feelings.

Your GP can refer you for talking therapies. You can also refer yourself for NHS treatment in some parts of England.

You may be offered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or counselling.

“At first, I thought the CBT would be a load of rubbish, but I’d recommend it. It helped me get rid of bad thoughts and instead focus on reality.” 

Kate, mum of one

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

The aim of CBT is to change the way you think and behave so you can manage any problems in a more healthy way. Unlike other talking treatments, CBT focuses on the problems you have now, and not those you’ve had in the past.

CBT has been shown to be an effective treatment for a range of mental health problems in pregnancy, such as: 

There are different forms of CBT:

  • Individual therapy – one-to-one sessions with a therapist.
  • Group therapy – working with other people who share similar experiences.
  • A self-help book, or computer program (iCBT).

It will help you:

  • Talk about your problems, your feelings about them and what you can do to manage them.
  • Think about whether these thoughts and actions are helpful, and what effect they have on you.
  • Start to change your unhelpful thoughts and actions.
  • Practise these new habits in your daily life.

A course of CBT lasts for around 5-20 sessions, which are each 30-60 minutes long.


Guided self-help is based on CBT. It may be an option for people with anxiety, depression or stress.

A therapist will help you to work through a self-help workbook or online course. This can be a good fit if you would find it tough to do CBT or counselling sessions.


Your doctor may prescribe medication to treat your mental health problem. Or you may have already been taking medication when you got pregnant.

If you are taking medication for a mental health problem when you get pregnant, do not stop taking it before talking to a doctor. You could get withdrawal symptoms or your mental health symptoms could come back or get worse.

What you are prescribed will depend on:

  • what mental health condition you have
  • how it affects you
  • how quickly you’ve become unwell, if you’ve stopped taking medication
  • what medications have helped you in the past
  • if anything has ever caused side effects.

Some medicines increase the chance of problems for your baby if you take them when you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Your doctor should give you all the facts you need to decide what treatment is best for you.

Talk to your midwife, mental health specialist or GP if you want to breastfeed and are taking medications for your mental health.

To help you decide the best thing to do, your doctor will talk to you about:

  • the benefits and risks of taking medication
  • other treatment options, such as guided self-help or talking treatment
  • what might happen if you do not have any treatment.

“The doctor prescribed antidepressants, which have worked. I feel a lot less stressed and everything feels less intense. I can deal with things a bit more head-on. I feel fine now.”

Amy, mum of one

More information

Breathing Space is a free confidential phone and webchat service for people in Scotland over the age of 16 who are struggling with low mood, depression or anxiety.

NHS Every Mind Matters has tips for looking after your mental health.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has information about antidepressants and antipsychotic medication.

1.    Mind. Perinatal Peer Support. (Page accessed November 2023)

2.    NHS. Mental health in pregnancy. (Page last reviewed: 19/02/2021. Next review due: 19/02/2024)

3.    NHS. NHS talking therapies. (Page last reviewed: 14/1/2022. Next review due: 14/1/2025)

4.    NHS. Self-help therapies. (Page last reviewed: 11/2/2022. Next review due: 11/2/2025)

5.    NHS. Overview – Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Page last reviewed: 10/11/2022. Next review due: 10/11/2025)

6.    NHS. How it works – Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). (Page last reviewed: 10/11/2022. Next review due: 10/11/2025)

7.    NICE (2020). Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance. National Institute for health and care excellence 

8. How to access mental health support in pregnancy. (Page last updated: 5/5/2023)

9. Antenatal Mental Health Problems. (Page last updated: 24/08/2023)

10. NHS Talking Therapies – Self Referral. (Page last updated 23/10/2023)

11.    Royal College of Psychiatrists. Psychotherapy, counselling, and psychological treatment in the NHS. (Page accessed November 2023)   

12.    Royal College of Psychiatrists. Mental health in pregnancy. (Published: Nov 2018. Review due: Nov 2021)

Review dates
Reviewed: 04 February 2024
Next review: 04 February 2027