Your mental health and wellbeing in pregnancy
Emotional highs and lows are natural and normal when you’re pregnant. Most women have good mental health during their pregnancy, though some find it harder to manage.
You can help yourself stay mentally well while pregnant and preparing for the birth of your baby.
It’s normal to experience worries
Being pregnant and becoming a parent:
- is an enormous change
- takes time to get used to
- brings enormous differences, from work and social life to relationships and finances
You might worry about:
- how you'll cope
- whether you'll be a good enough parent
- labour and giving birth
- feeling alone or unsupported
- bonding with your baby
It’s no wonder there'll be times when you feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster.
Remember, though, you're not alone. Dads and partners can feel the same.
Discussing your mental health
Some women have mental health issues for the first time during pregnancy, including:
- anxiety, including panic and obsessive-compulsive disorder
- tokophobia - an extreme fear of giving birth
Talk to someone
Try to share how you’re feeling with someone you trust, and talk about the things that are worrying you.
If you think things aren’t right or you’re starting to feel anxious or low, talk to your midwife and ask for help.
If you have a mental health condition, the earlier you get help and support the better. With the right support there’s every chance you’ll recover well.
Mental health checks
All pregnant women have physical checks at antenatal appointments and some mental health checks. They could be conversations about how you’re feeling or a questionnaire.
If it looks like you need extra support, you may be offered appointments more often or care from a specialist team.
Good mental health in pregnancy
Maintaining your mental health's important for you and your baby.
- talk to people about how you’re feeling - it’s okay to say you’re finding things hard, don’t be afraid to ask for help
- set realistic goals and take small steps that allow you to note progress along the way
- get a good night’s sleep and eat regular healthy meals - everyone feels better when they’re well rested and eating well
- be active - being outside and active's great for your mental health
Being pregnant and on your own
Feeling overwhelmed, tired and emotional at times is normal for any mum to be.
If you’re on your own and without a partner to help you, it can feel especially lonely and tough.
In Scotland, 1 in 4 families are single parent, so there are lots of people raising happy, healthy babies without a partner.
Support for lone parents
It’s important to find some support for those moments and beyond.
You can ask friends and family:
- to help with practical things
- be available if you need to talk
Many professionals and organisations can help too, so don’t be afraid to ask. One Parent Families Scotland can give you help and support too.
Dealing with mental illness
As many as 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men are affected by mental ill health during pregnancy, and the year after birth.
It's very important for you and your baby that you seek help. There's treatment and support available, and the sooner you get help, the sooner you’ll start to feel like yourself again.
- parents and babies can have long-lasting mental health issues
- previous mental health problems are more likely to come back during pregnancy
If you're at all concerned, the sooner you access support, the better for you and your baby.
When to get help
It’s important to know when to get help. Sometimes pregnancy symptoms, such as broken sleep and lack of energy, can be confused with symptoms of mental illness.
If you or your partner are worried about your safety or the safety of others, including your baby, tell your midwife or GP immediately. If your GP practice is closed, phone the NHS 24 111 service.
How your midwife can help
If your midwife knows your mental health history, there are ways to reduce the risk.
It’s especially important to say if you've ever had:
- an eating disorder
- postpartum psychosis
You should also tell your midwife if you, or anyone in your family, has had a bipolar disorder.
If you've had a previous traumatic birth
It might also be helpful to let them know if you had a difficult or traumatic birth previously and are worried about this.
They can ensure you get the right support during and after your pregnancy.
Translations and alternative formats of this information are available from Public Health Scotland.
22 September 2020
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