Planning a pregnancy and managing your mental health

Taking care of your mental wellbeing as well as your physical health before pregnancy is important.

This page is about looking after your general mental wellbeing while trying to get pregnant. We have different information if you are planning a pregnancy with a serious mental health illness.

Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety can be common in pregnancy. Taking care of your mental wellbeing before you get pregnant, and asking for help if you need it, will help you stay well during pregnancy.

Planning a pregnancy and your mental wellbeing

Planning to have a baby can be very exciting. It can also be daunting because you’re making plans for a huge change in your life. You may be thinking about:

Being a little anxious about these things is natural. But if you start feeling very anxious and all the time, you may need some extra support.  

What can I do to look after my mental health? 

There are some things you can do to help take care of your emotional health while you’re trying to get pregnant. These include: 

  • exercising  
  • eating well  
  • being honest about your feelings with family and friends
  • talking to someone you feel you can trust – your partner, a family member or a friend  
  • seeking professional help if you have any concerns about your feelings
  • trying to find ways to relax.

Alcohol, drugs and your mental health 

Drinking alcohol or taking illegal or recreational drugs can be bad for your mental health. They can increase the risk of mental health problems or make existing problems worse.  

For example, sometimes people drink to help with anxiety or depression (2 common mental health conditions). But alcohol affects the chemistry in the brain, which increases the risk of depression or make existing depression worse.

Hangovers can also make you feel ill, anxious, jittery or guilty.  

Using illegal and recreational drugs can have similar effects. For example, using cannabis can increase the risk of mental health problems like depression and suicidal feelings.

Using alcohol and illegal or recreational drugs can also cause serious pregnancy complications. The best thing to do is stop drinking or using drugs while you are trying to get pregnant.  

Talk to your GP if you are worried about not being able to stop alcohol or drug use. They will be able to refer you to specialist services. There are several charities and support groups across the UK that can support you (see below).  

Smoking and your mental health

Many people smoke cigarettes to help them relax, but smoking increases anxiety and tension. When you stop smoking:

  • your anxiety, depression and stress levels are lower
  • your mood improves
  • the dose of some medicines used to treat mental health conditions can be reduced.

Smoking can also affect your fertility and cause serious pregnancy complications. Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do if you are trying to get pregnant.  

Support from family and friends

Having a support network of people close to you who you trust and can talk to before you get pregnant will be very helpful during pregnancy and after. It will also help you keep stress levels down.  

Trying to get pregnant can be lonely sometimes. It is a very personal experience and there may be lots of reasons why you don’t feel comfortable talking about it but if there is a person you are close to, opening up about your worries and fears can help.  

You may find it helpful to talk to people you trust, especially if there is anything you are concerned about.  

If you are having specific fertility issues Fertility Network UK and Fertility Friends have online forums and fertility support groups where you can find other people who are going through the same things as you.

If you’ve had a pregnancy loss before

Losing a baby can impact on how you (and a partner) feel during a next pregnancy. Be kind to yourself. It’s understandable if you’re not enjoying trying again and it’s natural to feel some anxiety about how this pregnancy will progress.

If you (or your partner) are feeling low or anxious, don’t hide your feelings or suffer in silence. You are not alone. Tell your GP and midwife how you feel. They will help you get the support you need.

You can also talk to a Tommy’s midwife free of charge from 9am–5pm, Monday to Friday on 0800 0147 800 or email them at [email protected].  

Find out more about trying again after a miscarriage.

Find out more about trying for another baby after a stillbirth.

Find out more about trying for another baby after a neonatal death.

Will stress affect my fertility or pregnancy? 

There is not enough evidence to suggest that stress alone can cause infertility.  

But stress can impact on our health and day to day life. For example, stress (or anxiety and depression) can cause a low sex drive.

Being worried about whether stress or anxiety or will affect your fertility or a baby is understandable, but it can also create a vicious cycle of thoughts. If you feel anxious, you may start worry about the physical effects and so become even more anxious.

It is very unlikely that when you get pregnant your baby will be affected by stress or anxiety if you get the right treatment and support. So if you are finding trying to get pregnant very stressful, it’s important to get help.  

Find out more about getting help and support with your mental health.

Your relationship with your partner

Planning a family with your partner can be a very exciting time. For some, trying to get pregnant can even improve your relationship.

For others, trying to get pregnant can cause some stress. If you are in a heterosexual relationship and trying to get pregnant by having sex, it may begin to feel like a chore. This can cause problems between partners, and in some cases may make you unsure about starting a family.

It’s important for you and your partner to try to keep sex enjoyable by focusing on each other and your relationship, rather than worrying about getting pregnant. Try to also spend time together doing other things that are important to you as a couple.  

Trying to get pregnant by assisted conception, such as IVF can also cause stress in a relationship.

If you or your partner is feeling worried about pregnancy, try to give each other time to talk about it.  

It may help to get professional support. Relate can offer you space for you to talk about your worries together in a safe and confidential place with a trained counsellor.

 It may be helpful to deal with any problems in the relationship before you get pregnant or have the baby. But remember it’s never too late to get support.  

Domestic violence or abuse

If you're worried someone might see you have visited this page, the Women's Aid website tells you how to cover your tracks online.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, whatever your age, background, gender, religion, sexuality, ethnicity or disability. Around 1 in 3 women are affected by domestic abuse when they are pregnant.

Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial. Some abuse starts when women become pregnant. Other times the abuse gets worse during or after pregnancy.

Domestic violence or abuse can cause emotional and mental health problems, including stress and anxiety.

There are professionals you can talk to if you are thinking about having a family but are being abused. Nobody will judge you or tell you what to do, it’s just important that you get support.  

When should I seek help about my mental health?

Talk to your GP if you’ve noticed changes in how you think and feel that concern you. There may be an obvious cause for your feelings, such as trying to have a baby, or you may not know why you feel the way you do. It’s ok to seek help either way.  

Depending on their assessment you may be offered:

  • medication
  • talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapies
  • guidance on self-help therapies.

Anti-depressants and getting pregnant

If you are offered anti-depressants, tell your GP that you are trying to get pregnant. Sertraline is one of the most common anti-depressants and there is no evidence that taking it reduces your fertility.

Try not to worry if you develop mental health problems before getting pregnant. It's just important that these are well treated before and during pregnancy as these can affect both you and your baby's wellbeing. Depression and anxiety can sometimes get worse during pregnancy, and after the baby's born.

Speak to your GP as soon as you can if you are on anti-depressants and find out that you are pregnant. They will help you weigh up the risks and benefits so you can decide on the best treatment for you and your baby.

Will my mental health be monitored after I get pregnant?

Yes. Your midwife and the rest of your care team will ask you about your emotional wellbeing at all your routine antenatal appointments during your pregnancy. Be honest with them if you are having problems.

You will not be judged for how you feel. Many people expect to be (or think they should be) happy all the time during pregnancy. But many people feel more vulnerable and anxious when they are pregnant, for many reasons.

You can talk to your midwife or GP at any time about how you feel during pregnancy.

Find out more about your mental wellbeing in pregnancy

Anxiety UK is an organisation run by people with anxiety disorders, offering information, support and therapies for people experiencing anxiety.

B-EAT is an eating disorders charity providing information, support, local groups and an online chatroom.

Birth Trauma Association supports parents who have had a traumatic birth experience.

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) provides information for those who are thing about having counselling.

Contact a Family offers advice and information for families with disabled children.

Family Lives provides targeted early intervention and crisis support to families.

Galop is the UK’s LGBT+ anti-abuse charity. They work with and for LGBT+ victims and survivors of interpersonal abuse and violence.

Gingerbread provides information and support for lone parents online and through a network of local groups.

Home-Start provides support for families with young children.

MIND is a mental health charity providing information, support, local groups and an online chatroom

NHS has more details about finding information and support about your mental health.

No Panic is online and telephone support for people suffering from panic attacks, phobias, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and anxiety disorders.

OCD Action provides telephone advice, online chatroom, local support groups for people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Rethink Mental Illness supports people across England to get through mental health crises, to live independently and to realise they are not alone. Find a support group in your area.

Samaritans provides confidential service offering emotional support to those in need.

Women’s Aid support for women experiencing domestic abuse. 

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

Royal College of Psychiatrists. (2019) Alcohol and depression.

Royal College of Psychiatrists (2022) Cannabis and mental health.

NHS. Stopping smoking for your mental health. (Page last reviewed: 1 March 2021 Next review due: 1 March 2024)

British Medical Association (2014) Smoking and reproductive life; The impact of smoking on sexual, reproductive and child health, page 13

Palomba S, et al. Lifestyle and fertility: the influence of stress and quality of life on female fertility. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018 Dec 2;16(1):113. doi: 10.1186/s12958-018-0434-y. PMID: 30501641; PMCID: PMC6275085.

NHS. Low sex drive (loss of libido) (Page last reviewed: 8 June 2022 Nexy review due: 8 June 2025)

Glover V (2015) Prenatal stress and its effects on the fetus and the child: possible underlying biological mechanisms. Advances in neurobiology 2015;10:269-83. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-1372-5_13

World Health Organization (2013). Global and regional estimates of violence against women: Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence.

NHS. Domestic abuse in pregnancy. (Page last reviewed: 20 April 2021 Next review due: 20 April 2024)

NHS. Pregnancy, breastfeeding and fertility while taking sertraline. (Page last reviewed: 2 February 2022 Next review due: 2 February 2025) 

Review dates
Reviewed: 29 August 2023
Next review: 29 August 2026