Perinatal Mental Health

Why am I worried about becoming a parent and how can I get some help if I need it?

The way you’re feeling now – especially when your baby is still doing somersaults in your womb instead of being cradled in your arms – is completely normal. So normal, in fact, it’s shared by just about every mum-to-be at some point in pregnancy.

It’s a normal human emotion to be worried or scared about things that are unknown to us, and in fact shows what a great parent you will be. It’s a worry that affects everyone, even those in stable relationships, those who are emotionally and financially secure. Most people never truly feel “ready” and have many fears, but it has no bearing whatsoever on the kind of parent you will be or how you will adapt to your new life with a baby.

A lot of people feel terrified when they find out they are pregnant. It’s a completely natural way to feel. Talking to friends and relatives may help with this, and if you do become pregnant don’t hesitate to confide in your midwife or doctor, but know you are very much not alone in feeling this way.

If you’re feeling confused or unhappy, talk to someone you trust about your feelings. You can also speak to your GP or midwife about a referral to a counsellor – it’s helpful to share your concerns and talk things through.

There are a range of people who can support you if you’re finding things challenging.

Friends and family

Try to be as open as you can with your family and friends about what you’re going through. Support from family and friends can benefit many women who are experiencing difficulties before or after the birth of a child. For some people, this extra practical or emotional support is enough to set them on the road to recovery.

Midwives or maternal, child and family health nurses

If you’ve been seeing a midwife during pregnancy and/or a maternal and child health nurse after the birth, they’re a good place to start. As well as providing practical support and advice about feeding, sleep and child development, they can help you work out if what you’re going through suggests you may have a mental health condition.

General practitioners

Talking things through with your GP can also be a useful initial step. They can assess your overall health and wellbeing, make a diagnosis and either provide continuing treatment or refer you to a mental health specialist, such as a psychologist.

Try and be as open and honest as possible about how you’re feeling and what’s going on. Ask plenty of questions and make sure you get clarification on anything you’re not sure about. If you feel that your needs aren’t being met, don’t give up. It can take time to find someone who you can talk comfortably with.

How can I get some help as a new parent?

Becoming a new parent can be one of the most stressful things you will experience. Finding ways to look after yourself that fit in with your lifestyle and needs can make a big difference to your mental health and wellbeing.

You can experience any kind of mental health problems during and after pregnancy, but there are some that are particularly common or are specifically linked to pregnancy and childbirth.

Get talking to other new parents, you will find you are not alone in how you are feeling, many new parents will share the anxieties and frustrations you are experiencing. It can also give you a chance to share skills and experiences, help you realise that you are not alone and make new friends, above all, give you some emotional and practical support.

Things you can do to expand your support network:

  • Join local parent-and-baby groups – you may feel nervous, if you do try something based around an activity such as music or baby yoga, which might make it easier to start talking to other parents.
  • Contact specialist organisations or groups for new parents. There are lots of organisations that can help new parents to develop their support networks, such as NCT or Home-Start
  • Get some online support. There are lots of online communities for parents, people experiencing mental health problems and specifically parents experiencing mental health problems. Websites like netmums and mumsnet have forums where you can talk to other parents. Mind runs an online peer support community called Elefriends for anyone who wants support for their mental health. PND & Me connects people with experience of perinatal mental health problems primarily through twitter.
  • Try peer support. Many organisations run peer support programmes for specific diagnoses.

Coping with household tasks as well as looking after a new baby is a challenge for anyone. Finding some ways to help you to manage them day-to-day can help take the pressure off and make you feel more able to cope.

  • Accept some extra help. If your friends or family members offer to do the shopping, cook meals or do some cleaning, say yes! There’s nothing wrong with needing some support, and your family and friends will want to do something to help you.
  • Cook meals in advance. If you don’t have anyone around who can come and help, you can make planning food easier by batch cooking meals in advance and freezing them. Take advantage of times when you have more energy to cook, so you can have access to fast and healthy meals.
  • Take things slowly. It’s easy to start to feel overwhelmed when you’re looking after a new baby on top of regular life. Try setting yourself 20 minutes to do what you can of a task, whether that’s throwing things in the washing machine or sorting through your paperwork. Doing things in bite size chunks can make tasks feel more manageable.
  • Don’t put pressure on yourself. You might want to keep up with all the things you used to do – but looking after a new baby is a full time job. Try not to set unrealistic standards or get frustrated if you don’t do the things you planned to do.

Finding time to think about yourself while looking after your baby may feel like a big challenge, but by making small changes, you can find ways to take time to look after you.

  • Keep active. This could be going for a walk with the pram, dancing to music at home or gentle yoga. Physical activity can boost your mood, and help you feel like you’re getting to do some things just for yourself.
  • Try to get some sleep. Getting good sleep with a new baby might sound impossible! Giving yourself time to rest can make a big difference to how you feel. Try sleeping whenever your baby sleeps or, if you can, ask your partner to help with night feeds.
  • Take time to relax. You might feel like you have no time for yourself, or that all you do is sit around at home, but actively taking time to relax can mean more than just watching the TV. Think about what really helps you unwind, whether it’s reading a book, doing some gardening or doing crafts, and try to make a bit of time – even just five minutes – to do something that makes you feel good.

I’m concerned about how someone is coping since they became a new parent

As a family member or friend you may want to support someone experiencing a perinatal mental health problem.  It may be difficult, upsetting and frustrating to live with, or be close to, someone who is experiencing a perinatal mental health problem – but it’s important not to blame them for how they are feeling.

Some people who experience perinatal mental health problems may be reluctant to ask for help, out of fear that they might be judged as a bad parent or that it will result in their baby being taken away from them.

It can be really important for you to reassure them that many people have these experiences, and that they can get better.

You might worry that you’re intruding or think that your loved one might not feel able or ready to ask for your help and support, this is normal to feel this way – but it’s always worth offering your support to show that you care.

Some tips to help you make time for them:

  • Offer to spend casual time with them. Just having some company while getting on with daily tasks and looking after their baby can help make your loved one feel less isolated and more supported.
  • Make time to keep in touch. If you feel they are struggling with their mental health, it can make a big difference to them if they feel that you’re thinking of them and actively want to spend time together.
  • Suggest activities that you used to do together. Becoming a parent can make some people feel as if they’re losing touch with who they were before becoming a parent, it can help if you can find things to do together that you did before they became a parent.
  • Offer to go to parent-child groups or activities together if your loved one is feeling nervous about going alone.
  • Offer them some space. They might feel under pressure to be positive about becoming a parent, and it might take some time for them to feel able to talk and share their feelings and experiences.
  • Listening is key.  You might want to offer advice or encourage them to think about how happy they are to have their baby, but they might feel as if they’re being criticised. Try to listen to what they want to share.
  • Don’t judge. If they open up about distressing thoughts and feelings, try not to judge them. Remember, it’s likely that they will find it very difficult to talk about these sorts of thoughts, so the best thing you can do is not judge.

The best way to find out what they need is to ask them. However, they may feel very low and might find it difficult to make suggestions. You might want to offer to:

  • do some cleaning, laundry and other household tasks
  • help to cook and do the shopping
  • look after the baby, so they can get some rest or have some time to do something they would like to do.

Asking for help can be a very difficult thing to do, and even more so if you’re worried that you might be judged as a bad parent.

  • Offer to help them arrange an appointment with their GP.
  • Ask them if they are happy for you to go with them to appointments. You could offer to look after their baby or older children, or help them plan what they’d like to talk about.
  • Help them research different options for support, such as peer support groups or parenting groups.

Local Support

Find local perinatal mental health support around Doncaster

Website: babyloss-awareness.org

There are a variety of charity organisations, specific to what support you may need, which can be found on the Baby Loss Awareness Alliance website. 

Psychological support for women experiencing PTSD symptoms as a result of their child birth experience. Sessions are run by a specialist midwife and are usually offered from 6-8 weeks postpartum with referrals being made by a Health/Social Care Professional.

Phone: 0114 438 8962

Text: 07523242212

Email: contactus@lightpeersupport.org.uk

Website: https://lightpeersupport.org.uk/

A charity that offers emotional support to families during the perinatal period. All staff and volunteers have their own individual stories and experiences. We aim to raise awareness, reduce stigma and offer hope and support to families experiencing perinatal mental illness from pregnancy and beyond.

Light provides peer to peer support in the form of support groups, 1-1 sessions or via telephone, video call or email.

To self-refer to our service please email, text or call us.

Website: lightpeersupport.org.uk

Email: contactus@lightpeersupport.org.uk

Light pre & postnatal support is a local charity which aims to provide support to families who are affected by perinatal mental health and to also raise awareness in Sheffield and beyond.

You can find out more on their website or download their leaflet about Light Peer Support hereTheir face-to-face peer support groups take place on the following days:

Tuesdays:

  • 10.00-11.00am at Bright Stars Play Space, Rotherham
  • 10.30am-12.30pm at Bentley Family Hub, Doncaster

Wednesdays:

  • 10.00am-12.00pm at Light Drop In, Knowle House, Sheffield

Thursdays:

  • 1.00-2.00pm at Pregnant Parents Group, Knowle House, Sheffield

Fridays:

  • 9.30-11.00am at Rossington Family Hub, Doncaster
  • 12.30-2.00pm at Shortbrook Family Centre, Sheffield

Would you like to attend? Please get in touch via email.

Provides specialist assessment and treatment to mums and their families living in Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster. The service is run in partnership between Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust,  and Light, a local perinatal peer support charity.

Download leaflet

To access the service you must be referred by a health or social care professional working in Sheffield, Rotherham or Doncaster. This could be your GP, community mental health team, midwife or health visitor.

Website: talkingtherapies.rdash.nhs.uk

NHS Doncaster Talking Therapies, previously known as Doncaster IAPT, provides talking therapies to adults who are experiencing common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and stress.

The Doncaster team is made up of psychological wellbeing practitioners, cognitive behavioural therapists and counsellors. The team can offer a range of different talking therapies to support you in managing your mental health and improving your wellbeing.

The service can be used by anyone registered with a Doncaster GP surgery and expecting a baby or up to 2 years after birth, including fathers who may also find this a worrying and overwhelming experience.

National support organisations

See what national support is available for perinatal mental health.

Tel: 020 33229900

Email: app@app-network.org

Information and peer support service for women and families affected by postpartum psychosis. One to one support is available by messaging online with a trained peer supporter or there is a PPTalk online support forum.

Go to website

Tel: 07591 740287

Website: joeltcp.org

To support families after the devastation of pregnancy and baby loss, through subsequent pregnancy and parenting. We aim to celebrate a family as a whole and break the taboo associated with baby loss. A baby born after a loss is known as a rainbow baby.

  • Support; via our closed Facebook groups, Face to face and online peer support meetings, and our wellbeing sessions.
  • Provide and distribute a range of support resources for families, employers, healthcare, and education providers, including our JOEL family support pack. Support resources can be ordered from our website for free. Developed by bereaved parents to support families through the lifelong journey of baby loss.
  • Our JOEL Oak Tree is situated at Langold Lake Country Park, Nottinghamshire – Providing a place for families to enjoy and have space to reflect and be together.
  • Creating angel gowns for babies, out of wedding dresses donated to hospitals and funeral directors. Available directly from JOEL.
  • Funding and developing a beautiful, bespoke, and multi-purpose family room in the labour ward at Bassetlaw Hospital which can provide a place of comfort for bereaved families.
  • Support for Mums, Dads, Siblings, Grandparents, family, and friends.

The Perinatal Treatment website offers free, evidence-based mental health treatments for new parents. There are videos, online treatments, resources and questionnaires for mums and dads.

Go to website

Office: 020 7398 3400

Pregnancy Line: 0800 0147 800

Email: mailbox@tommys.org

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Tommy’s is a charity funding research into the causes of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. Tommy’s provides information for parents-to-be to help them have a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Go to website

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