About maternal mental health

Having a baby is a huge life-changing event and it is natural to have times when you feel overwhelmed and anxious during pregnancy and after your baby is born.

Up to 1 in 5 new mothers will experience mental health issues during pregnancy or in the year after birth—what is often called the perinatal period (‘peri’ meaning ‘around’ and ‘natal’ meaning ‘birth’).

One of the most widely recognised issues is postnatal depression, which may be characterised by persistent feelings of sadness and low mood. However, postnatal depression and other maternal mental health issues present in many ways and can include symptoms of anxiety and, for mums who have had a challenging birth, post-traumatic stress. Whatever your situation, it is very important you tell someone how you are feeling as soon as possible.

Signs and symptoms

Most women experience the baby blues, some tearfulness and low mood a few days after birth, but if your problems persist you may be suffering from postnatal depression or another perinatal mood disorder. Symptoms are different for every mum but may include:

  • feeling sad and tearful
  • feeling anxious or afraid to be on your own with your baby
  • being preoccupied with worrying thoughts
  • having difficulty adjusting to parenthood or in bonding with your baby
  • experiencing difficulties with your partner since having a baby
  • feeling stressed and unmotivated
  • feeling tired and overwhelmed
  • having difficulties getting over your birth experience

A very small number of mothers experience a rare but more severe mental illness called puerperal or postpartum psychosis. You can find more information about symptoms and where to get help on the NHS website and with Action on Postpartum Psychosis.

“I was able to admit in a safe environment how isolated and vulnerable I felt as a mum.” Joanna

Get the help you need

With the right support, postnatal depression and other perinatal mental health issues including anxiety, obtrusive thoughts and PTSD from birth trauma are very treatable. You should seek professional help if you are:

  • unable to handle the intensity of what you are feeling, or the physical sensations
  • continue to feel numb or overly stressed
  • feel like your emotions are not returning to ‘normal’
  • have disturbed sleeping and eating patterns
  • have no person or group with whom you can share your feelings and experiences
  • find relationships with friends and family are suffering

If you need support, call 07758 763908 or email MumsAid at info@mums-aid.org

Our Useful links page also has details of websites and organisations providing relevant information and support on maternal mental health.