Thinking ahead to pregnancy: practical tips on staying well

Practical tips on staying well once you are pregnant if you are planning a pregnancy with a mental illness

When you’re thinking about having a baby, planning ahead can help you and your baby stay well and help you feel more in control.

You can speak to your healthcare team about how your mental illness may affect pregnancy care, and how pregnancy may affect your mental health.

Some women enjoy pregnancy but others find it more difficult. This is true of all women, whether or not they have a mental illness. By planning ahead, you will have the support you need in place so you can get help quickly. Start by using our planning for pregnancy online tool to see how you can get ready.

Tips for staying well during pregnancy:

  • Accept offers of help – family and friends can give you practical help, which can give you time to rest and catch up on sleep. For example, they could look after older children.
  • Talk to others – there are many support organisations who can give you information or put you in touch with other women with mental illness. Some of these organisations are listed at the bottom of this page.
  • Go to your antenatal appointments – your mental illness may mean you sometimes miss an appointment, which can mean you miss out on important health checks. If you can’t get to an appointment, contact your midwife and ask to book another appointment.
  • If you take medication for your mental illness, don’t stop taking it without speaking to your GP or perinatal mental health team. Stopping your medication suddenly can make your symptoms come back or get worse.
  • Talk to your perinatal mental health team about the chances of getting postpartum psychosis or a relapse of your mental illness after the birth. Ask what support and treatment you would have if this happened.
  • You and your family or partner can look out for signs that your mental illness symptoms are coming back – speak to your GP or perinatal mental health team if you’re worried about any symptoms.
  • Plan what treatment and care you would or wouldn’t like to receive during pregnancy and childbirth if your mental illness means you can’t make decisions.
  • If you have other children, you can also get support from your health visitor or family nurse.
  • If you have problems sleeping, you may find it helps to go to bed at a similar time each night and try to do something relaxing before bed. If you’re still having sleep problems, your GP may be able to help.
  • Reduce stress – you could think about reducing your hours at work or try relaxation exercises, such as yoga or meditation.
  • Avoid any big life changes, such as moving house, during or straight after pregnancy.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be the perfect mum. It’s OK if you decide not to breastfeed or if you need help from family and friends.

You can use our free downloadable Wellbeing Plan to help you start thinking about how you feel and what support you might need in your pregnancy and after the birth.

More information and support

Action on Postpartum Psychosis
Information and support for women with postpartum psychosis and their partners.

Bipolar UK: Women and Bipolar
Information about pregnancy and childbirth for people affected by bipolar disorder.

Provides support and advice for anyone experiencing mental illness.

Provides pregnant women and new mums with specialist counselling for emotional or mental health difficulties.

Read more

Last reviewed: 1 July 2020
Next review: 1 July 2023