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Mental Health

More than one in ten women will be affected by mental illness during their pregnancy and/or after the birth of their baby.

It is important to tell your GP, midwife or health visitor about your thoughts and feelings early, to ensure you get the help you need earlier rather than waiting until things get worse.

Perinatal mental health

The perinatal period includes your pregnancy, labour, birth and the postnatal period up until your baby reaches one year of age.

Mental illness can affect anybody. Some women will experience a mental health problem for the first time during their pregnancy or after the birth of their baby. Other women will have had ongoing mental health problems and then become pregnant, whilst others will have had past mental health problems.

Getting pregnant and having a baby will be very exciting for most people; however it can come with new challenges and demands. Even if you have not experienced mental health problems in the past, the physical and emotional changes pregnancy and childbirth brings can sometimes trigger a mental illness.

The most common mental health problems in pregnancy and after the birth of a baby are depression and anxiety. During pregnancy, depression affects approximately 12 percent of women and anxiety affects around 13 percent of women. This figure increases to around 15-20 percent of women affected by depression and anxiety during the first year following childbirth.

Support services for you

At the Royal Berkshire hospital we have a range of support services available

  • A joint mental health clinic for women with severe mental illness
  • A specialist team of midwives who support women with the most severe mental illness
  • Close working with the Berkshire perinatal mental health service
  • A birth reflections service to support families to explore and understand their birth experience.
  • Rapid access to Talking Therapies for pregnant or postnatal women with anxiety or depression
  • Online peer support
  • Signposting to a wide range of independent support services, such as Pandas Foundation

Frequently asked questions

If you have suffered from a mental health problem in the past, which was treated and you are now well, then it is still really important that you share this information with your community midwife as soon as possible.

The severity of your previous condition will depend on the management of your care. For some women pregnancy and childbirth can cause them to become unwell again due to the physical and emotional changes that having a baby can bring.

Many women worry about taking medication in pregnancy. You need to think carefully about what the risks and benefits of medication are for you and your baby. For many women it may be safer to take medication in pregnancy than to stop. This is more likely if you have had a more severe illness.

If you are worried, or want to get pregnant and have questions surrounding your medication, then discuss this first with your psychiatrist or GP. They can give you up-to-date information about medications in pregnancy. They can also help you to decide what is best for you are your baby.

It is very important that you don't stop your medication or reduce the dose suddenly. You are more likely to become unwell again if you do this without advice.

For further information regarding medication in pregnancy and while breastfeeding your baby, please visit:

Mental wellbeing is as important as physical health for the whole family. When we first see you (your 'booking' appointment) we will ask you about your past medical history, including your mental health and wellbeing and that of your family, and any medication taken. Various medical professionals will ask routine questions about your thoughts and feelings throughout your pregnancy.

We will ask you about your mental wellbeing at a number of your appointments, this is to encourage you to share any concerns, so we can offer you the best advice and support. Research shows early identification and support can reduce distress caused by mental health problems.

Pregnancy can be a very emotional experience, and it can sometimes be difficult to know whether your feelings are manageable, or a sign of something more serious.

Trust yourself. You are the best judge of whether your feeling are normal for you. There are no rules about how worried you must be before talking to your midwife or GP about how you feel. You can talk to a healthcare professional at any time if you have concerns during your pregnancy. The sooner you ask for help, the sooner you can get the right support, if you need it.

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