Planning to have a baby can be very exciting. It can also be daunting. You’re making plans for a huge change in your life. You may be thinking about:
- money and affording a baby
- maternity leave or stopping work
- what kind of parent you want to be
- your health
- how long it will take to get pregnant, and your fertility.
Being anxious about these things is normal and healthy and you should not think that it is a problem. But in some cases the periods of worry and stress don’t go away, and this is when they may turn into something more serious. Look out for changes in your mood that are lasting much longer than is normal for you. Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are not unusual in pregnancy so it’s important to look after your mental wellbeing before and after you conceive.
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 as you try to conceive. These include:
- being active/exercising
- eating well
- being honest about your feelings
- talking to someone you feel you can trust – your partner, a family member or a friend
- getting help if you have any concerns about your feelings
- finding ways to relax.
Alcohol, drugs and mental health
Alcohol and non-medical drug use can be bad for your mental health, making feelings of depression and anxiety worse if you have them. Sometimes people may also use alcohol or drugs as a way of trying to cope with mental health problems. When you are planning a pregnancy it is best to stop drinking alcohol and taking drugs.
Talk to your GP if you have worries about not being able to stop alcohol or drug use. They will be able to refer you to specialist services. As well as the NHS, there are a number of charities and support groups across the UK that can support you.
Support from family and friends
Having a support network of people close to you who you trust and can talk to before you become pregnant will be very helpful during pregnancy and afterwards when you have a small baby to look after. It will also help you keep stress levels down.
Trying to get pregnant can be a lonely time for some because talking about it might not feel easy or normal. You may find it helpful to talk to people you trust, especially if it is taking a while to happen. You may find that the same happened to others.
If you are having specific fertility issues Fertility Network UK has an online forum and fertility support groups where you can find other people who are going through the same things as you.
Chronic (continual) and ongoing stress can sometimes affect the baby’s development in the wombs, so support and reassurance from family and friends will also help you when you become pregnant and as your baby develops. You may find it helpful to ask for support from family and friends now to help you have a healthy and happy pregnancy.
Make a wellbeing plan
Our online 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.
Your relationship with your partner
Planning a family with your partner can be a very exciting time. For some, trying to conceive can even improve your relationship.
For others, trying to conceive can cause some stress and sex may become routine or even 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 conceiving. Try to also spend time together doing other things that are important to you as a couple.
If you or your partner is feeling worried about conceiving, 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 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. It also puts you and your unborn child at risk.
It may be very difficult to recognise or admit what is happening. Remember that domestic violence or abuse can happen to anyone and you are not alone.
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 (listed below).
When should I get help about my mental health?
You may feel all kinds of emotions as you plan for pregnancy, but it’s important to be aware of any changing feelings. See your GP if:
- you’ve been feeling depressed for more than a few weeks
- your anxiety is affected your daily life.
If you go to your doctor with concerns about mental wellbeing you may be asked some questions. These are designed to help them look for signs of common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. For example, they may ask:
- During the past month, have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless?
- During the past month, have you been bothered by having little interest or pleasure in doing things?
- Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by feeling nervous, anxious or on edge?
- Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by not being able to stop or control worrying
Try to answer any questions as honestly as you can. Remember these feelings can be quite common and your doctor is there to help you.
If you need further support you may be referred to a mental health professional.
Depending on their assessment you may be offered:
- talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapies
- guidance on self-help therapies.
You will probably be referred to a perinatal mental health specialist and will be monitored more closely during and after your pregnancy.
Find out more about getting help and support with mental health when you are pregnant.
Will my mental health be monitored after I get pregnant? And how?
Yes. Many women feel more vulnerable and anxious when they are pregnant. But if you haven’t experienced mental health problems before, try not to worry about becoming unwell after you conceive. Your midwife and the rest of your care team will ask you about your emotional wellbeing at all appointments through your pregnancy. Be honest with them if you are having problems.
It can also help to find out more about the symptoms of common mental health conditions in pregnancy, such as anxiety and depression.