Maternal mental health

Maternal mental health

Perinatal mental health (PMH) needs are those which occur during pregnancy or in the first year following the birth of a child. Perinatal mental illness affects up to 20% of new and expectant mums and covers a wide range of conditions.

Emotional wellbeing in pregnancy

When you’re 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’. It is very common to have ups and downs and anxiety can be often caused by some of the following reasons:

  • The hormonal changes that take place can make you feel tired, nauseous, emotional and upset, particularly in the first three months of pregnancy.
  • During the antenatal period women are offered a number of screening tests which may increase levels of anxiety.
  • Also pregnancy can also cause anxieties around some of the practical things such as financial worries, work and relationships. 
  • It’s common for people to have dreams about their baby and sometimes these may reflect some of their anxieties. 

It's important to look after your emotional well-being, and even more so when you are expecting a baby or have just given birth. It's completely normal to be feeling a range of new emotions and to look after yourself during this important time.

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

Where to get help yourself or a family member

  • If you feel unsafe call 999.
  • Contact your midwife, maternity triage, GP or health visitor.
  • Contact the specialist perinatal midwife, Rebecca Thomas: / telephone: 07803 440237

MY Team

MY Team

  • Rebecca Thomas - Lead Perinatal Specialist Midwife
  • Soffia Ashraf - Perinatal Specialist Midwife

Contact us

Telephone: 01924 512333

Perinatal specialist midwife

Our perinatal specialist midwives support staff and patients to ensure they have access to the right mental health support during pregnancy and postnatally.

This includes mental health support, emotional wellbeing, signposting to services, links to specialist services for vulnerable women, birth debrief, Tokophobia (extreme fear of birth).

Monthly clinics which can be accessed through a referral from your midwife. For people who have experienced trauma a ‘Trauma Informed Care Plan’ can be written with yourself and our specialist midwives or mental health team. This equips patients and health professions with all of the information they need in order to prevent re-traumatising and provides personalised, high quality care.  

If further specialist support is required, health professionals can refer people to The Perinatal Mental Health Team at the South West Yorkshire Partnership who are able to provide additional enhanced specialist support.

Specialist support

Sometimes people need further specialist support to help them deal with certain phobias, traumas or abuse which can be made worse by pregnancy. These include some of the following:

Tokophobia (Fear of childbirth and or pregnancy)

Tokophobia fear of childbirth and or pregnancy, is the name given when someone has a severe phobia of being pregnant or giving birth. It can cause extreme anxiety and can even make you feel repelled at the thought of pregnancy or birth.

80% of women have some anxiety around pregnancy and birth but Tokophobia is the name given to the more extreme cases.

Primary Tokophobia is a strong fear experienced by people who have no previous experience of pregnancy or birth and is likely to have dreaded childbirth before becoming pregnant.

Secondary Tokophobia is the most common and is developed after a previous traumatic labour or even a normal birth, miscarriage, stillbirth or termination of pregnancy.

Trauma caused by previous birth experience(s)

We encourage previous birth experiences to be discussed with a health professional. This could be someone you saw antenatal such as your midwife to answer any questions you have. We offer a ‘better births clinic’ where birth de-briefs can take place.

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

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

"My Trauma care plan prevented me from being traumatised this time. I really think I couldn’t have coped without the plan. Everyone was really understanding and I felt safe and listened to."

- Patient feedback from the 2022 friends and family test.

Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse or domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial. It is often a combination of these.

Unfortunately, pregnancy can be a trigger for domestic abuse, and existing abuse may get worse during pregnancy or after giving birth.

This can put you and your unborn child in danger. It increases the risk of miscarriage, infection, premature birth, and injury or death to the baby.

It can also cause emotional and mental health problems, such as stress and anxiety, which can affect the development of the baby.

If you're pregnant and being abused, we urge you to get help. Please speak in confidence to your maternity team or midwife.

If you're in immediate danger always call the police, and always dial 999 if it is an emergency and press 55 if you can’t talk (only on mobile phones). They have a duty to protect and help you.

Visit the NHS website for more information and for the trigger signs.

Pregnancy workshops and online support

The Pregnancy Workshops help you to improve your wellbeing during pregnancy and provide you with up to date antenatal advice.

Wakefield and Pontefract

Book a place on our mindful pregnancy course with Specialist Midwife and wellbeing practitioners or on our postnatal workshops with the Specialist Health Visitor.

For more information, please visit the Wakefield Turing Point website or email

Kirklees, Dewsbury and Batley

Offer a perinatal wellbeing programme on our computerised cognitive behavioural therapy programme Silvercloud. This offers fast access to treatment and flexibility as it can be access any time of day, to fit around caring for a new baby. Please contact 01484 343700 to access support.

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’re feeling like this it is important that you have someone that you can talk to.

Benefits of aromatherapy in childbirth

Aromatherapy is the art and science of using naturally extracted aromatic essences (essential oils) from plants to balance and harmonize the body, mind and spirt every day or during stressful experiences. Labour and birth can certainly fall into the latter and research has shown that some fragrances can have a calming effect during childbirth and can even reduce the perception of pain whilst easing nausea, vomiting and headaches. 
Essential oils can also improve sleep and research shows that when people are well rested, they’re better able to manage pain and stress. Some of the most commonly used oils are:
• chamomile
• clary sage
• ginger oil
• lavender
• lemongrass
Pain management is among the core benefits of aromatherapy during labour and, within Pinderfields Birth Centre, we offer essential oil through a diffuser. Using a few drops of pure essential oil in a diffuser in the birthing room is a great way to inhale and exhale the mist which bestows the therapeutic benefit of oils without having any contact with the skin. 
Beverley Woodhead, a midwife on Pinderfields Birth Centre, said: “The provision of aromatherapy within our birth centre also enables women to enjoy the positive effects of the application of essential oils, including therapeutic touch. Both of which, when applied sensitively and appropriately, can enhance relaxation, provide a sense of wellbeing, encourage oxytocin release and help to reduce complications in childbirth'.