Emotional well-being in Pregnancy

Pregnancy and the first year after the birth are periods of great change. Emotional, social, financial and physical demands can cause a good deal of stress and for some women, cause some unexpected feelings. 

Know that you are not alone, depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems during pregnancy, with around:

  • 12% of women experiencing depression
  • 13 % experiencing anxiety at some point

When you are pregnant it can sometimes feel as though you have to feel happy all of the time. You may find that people expect you to look forward to the baby and to be all excited and ‘bloom’ however, you are more likely to have ups and downs.

The hormonal changes that take place can make you feel tired, nauseous, emotional and upset, particularly in the first 3 months of pregnancy.

During the antenatal period women are offered a number of tests that may make you feel more anxious than usual.  Also women sometimes report anxieties around some of the practical things that can change with pregnancy such as money, work and relationships.  Women often report having dreams about their baby and sometimes these may reflect some of their anxieties. 

It's normal to have some worries in pregnancy and from time to time to feel down.  However, if you begin to feel down and depressed most of the time and are not looking forward to things as you would usually this is more concerning.  If you are feeling like this it is important that you have someone that you can talk to.

Becoming a mother can be an exciting time of change. The pleasures and enjoyment of caring for a new baby change you from being an individual to being part of a family.  However, being a mum also brings new pressures that can make you feel upset and unhappy. It is not uncommon to feel exhausted due to lack of sleep which can come as a shock to most new parents.

Watch this short video about how to look after your emotional wellbeing during pregnancy:

Perinatal Depression

Perinatal depression affects at least 1 in 13* women following the birth of their baby.  Most women who develop perinatal depression do so within the first 12 weeks following birth although for some women it may be later than this. It can occur at any time within your pregnancy or the first year of the birth of your baby.  

Depression takes many forms and it can be hard to know when to seek help.

Women experiencing one or more of the following symptoms may need support:

•             Low mood / sadness

•             Loss of  pleasure or interest

•             Loss of confidence

•             Appetite changes

•             Anxiety

•             Sleep difficulties not related with the baby

•             Feelings of guilt

•             Tearfulness

•             Irritability

•             A sense of isolation

•             Thoughts of self harm

•             Intrusive memories, flashbacks, re-experiencing aspects of birth experience

•             Fear and helplessness

•             Inability to cope with everyday tasks or work effectively

You should talk to your Health Visitor, Midwife or GP.

We know that some people are worried about voicing concerns and it takes courage to ask for help.

We do not make any judgement and you will not be alone. Women who do access treatment or support can and do get better.

Maternal mental health

Postpartum psychosis is a rare but serious mental health illness that can affect a woman soon after she has a baby. Many women will experience mild mood changes after having a baby, known as the "baby blues". This is normal and usually only lasts for a few days.

But postpartum psychosis is very different from the "baby blues". It's a serious mental illness and should be treated as a medical emergency.

Warning signs;

  • Recent significant change in mental state – severe high/low mood, confusion, paranoia, delusions, unusual behaviour.
  •  Thoughts of self-harm or acts of violence.
  • Continuously saying they are not a good mother or refusing to care for the infant.

These signs may appear from birth and is most likely to appear in the first few weeks. A woman may not have all of the signs above. It should be treated as a medical emergency. If not treated immediately, things can get rapidly worse.

Where to get help yourself or a family member.

  • If you feel unsafe call 999.
  • Contact Maternity service for advice, either your community midwife or maternity triage.
  • Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Team or Single Point of access: Wakefield 01924 316900, Dewsbury 01924 316830

The perinatal specialist midwife is Rebecca Thomas

Email: rebecca.thomas37@nhs.net 

Telephone: 07803 440237

Perinatal specialist midwife Rebecca supports staff and patients to ensure they have access to the support they need in pregnancy. This includes mental health support, emotional wellbeing, Signposting to services, links to specialist services for vulnerable women, birth debrief, Tokophobia (extreme fear of birth).

Please download our leaflet on 2071a Tokophobia - Fear of childbirth.pdf [pdf] 157KB for further information.