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What is a perinatal mental health problem?

A perinatal mental health problem is a mental health problem you experience before or shortly after giving birth.

It’s normal to feel a variety of emotions during this time, but if this it is starting to seriously impact your life or lasts a long time, you might have a mental health problem.

It is common; around one in five women will experience a mental health difficulties during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth.

What mental health problems might I experience?

There are many mental health problems you can experience during or shortly after pregnancy, but these are some of the most common:

  • Perinatal anxiety – feeling tense and on edge
  • Perinatal depression – feeling sad and hopeless, difficulty sleeping and enjoying things
  • Perinatal OCD – experiencing unwelcome thoughts and urges, or feeling the need to perform repetitive activities
  • Postpartum PTSD – experiencing flashbacks of the birth, or feeling angry, alert or panicked
  • Postpartum psychosis – a rapidly-changing mood or believing and seeing things other people don’t

What happens if I talk to my GP or midwife?

If you are worried about your mental health before or after pregnancy, it’s important you tell your GP or midwife.

Don’t be afraid to tell them how you are feeling, as it’s in everyone’s interests that you feel emotionally prepared for pregnancy and parenthood.

Together, you can discuss how starting a family could affect your mental health, how your mental health could affect your pregnancy, and what to do if you are taking any medication.

What help is available?

If you have a new or existing mental health problem, your midwife or doctor may suggest psychological treatments – such as talking therapy – or medicine.

There are also ways that you can look after yourself.

Find out more about what to do if you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health during or shortly after pregnancy:

Visit the NHS website

Visit the Maternal Mental Health Alliance website

If you are struggling to cope or know someone who is, you can also call Samaritans on 116 123.