When should I start planning a pregnancy?

When you have a serious mental illness the earlier you start planning your pregnancy the better

It’s a good idea to plan your pregnancy as far in advance as you can. This will give you time to talk to your doctor about any medication you’re taking and make sure you’re as healthy as possible.

If you smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs you will need time to give these up gradually and safely. Make sure you’re using a reliable form of contraception during this time.

Speak to your GP or mental health professional as soon as possible if you’re thinking about having a baby or if you get pregnant.

If you’re under 18, you may have contact with a child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) and if you already have children, you can talk to your health visitor, family nurse or support worker. 

It’s important to keep taking your mental health medication until you see a doctor who specialises in mental health, such as a psychiatrist. Stopping your medication suddenly may harm your mental health and may not benefit your baby.

Some women remain well during pregnancy, some do not – everyone is different. But we know that the chance of mental illness returning is higher in pregnancy and just afterwards. Being aware of this means you can think ahead and be prepared so you can get help quickly and recover.

There is treatment to help you. Thinking ahead and being prepared is the key.

What if I have a serious mental illness and am already pregnant?

It isn’t always possible to plan a pregnancy in advance. If you are already pregnant or your pregnancy wasn’t planned, it’s important to tell your GP or mental health professional as soon as possible. If you’re a young parent, you can also speak to CAMHS, your health visitor, family nurse or support worker.

Don’t stop taking your mental health medication until you have spoken to your doctor because this can cause your symptoms to come back or get worse.

Read more about specific mental health conditions and pregnancy here.

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