Mental Health problems are common in pregnancy with 1 in 4 women experiencing a mental health disorder. It is important to tell your health professionals as soon as possible about any pre-existing conditions, medications or change in moods they can help you. Most mental health problems can be managed through medication and/or talking therapies.
Women often feel guilty for not being happy around the perinatal period and can sometimes feel that this makes them a bad parent and they can’t care for their baby. In reality, the opposite is true, asking for help and support to get well makes you the best parent for you and your baby.
If you become seriously mentally unwell or have a relapse in a long term serious condition, your mental health team and midwives will work with you to keep you and baby together. Sometimes families need additional support from children’s social services to support the safety and wellbeing of your baby.
If you experience thoughts about death or harming yourself or the baby, this can be very frightening, and may make you feel as if you are going mad or completely out of control. You may be afraid to tell anyone about these feelings.
But it's important to realise that having these thoughts doesn't mean that you are actually going to harm yourself or your children. However difficult it is, the more you can bring these feelings out into the open and talk about them, whether to a family member, a friend or a health professional, the sooner you can get support.
Women need to take medication for many different physical and mental health problems during pregnancy. Many women and their doctors decide that it would be safest for you to take medication for your mental health during pregnancy. This includes antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety medications. Some babies can experience symptoms after birth because of these medicines. For this reason your baby will have a physical health check within 24 hours of birth. You should not worry about this – even if babies do develop symptoms these usually settle down within a few days without the need for any treatment.
- Make sure you tell the people involved in your care what medication you are taking
- Don’t stop or make any changes to your medication without talking to your doctor first
- ake medication regularly and make sure you don’t run out – if this happens make sure you talk to your GP or psychiatry doctor about what to do
- Your doctor will tell you about any symptoms your baby might experience
- If you give birth in hospital, a New Born Examination your baby will take place after birth (within the first 72 hours) to make sure that he/she is not experiencing any physical health problems
- The reviews will include checking your baby’s alertness and looking for any signs of irritability or distress, testing his/her movements for any stiffness or floppiness as well as listening to the baby’s heart and lungs. The doctor will also ask if you have any worries about your baby’s wellbeing, including how he / she is settling, feeding and sleeping
- The check will take around 10 minutes and is not harmful or painful for your baby
- During the New Born Examination, any concerns found with your baby, will be discussed with you fully, and whether these are due to medication or other causes. Other symptoms, which may present are: A continuous high pitched cry, fast breathing, shaking of arms and legs, diarrhoea, fever, sweating, excessive sneezing, yawning and hiccups. They will explain any investigations or treatment needed. If you have taken antidepressant medication in pregnancy and have a home birth, your baby will have a New Born Examination by a midwife.
- You will be supported to feed your baby whether you choose to breastfeed, bottle feed or mixed feed
If you are worried about your baby, speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor. If at any time your baby appears unwell, drowsy or has feeding difficulties you should see your GP or take him/her to A&E
BUMPS website is the best place for you and GP to check if medication is pregnancy safe. BUMPS (Best Use of Medication in Pregnancy) www.medicinesinpregnancy.org
American website used to check drugs for breastfeeding
Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) - NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
You may be nervous or scared about giving birth. This is quite common. Pregnancy and childbirth are significant life events, so don't be too hard on yourself if you experience these emotions.
The best thing you can do is open up to your midwife or obstetrician about how you are feeling. They may be able to reassure you or answer any questions you may have and debunk any myths you have heard.
Joining our antenatal classes and hypnobirthing course is the best way to prepare for labour and birth as you will get unbiased information about childbirth. This may also help you to form a birth preference list (also referred to as a birth plan).
It is uncommon, but some women are so afraid of giving birth that they are unable to do so, even if they desperately want the baby. A severe fear of childbirth may also influence their decision on how to deliver their child. Tokophobia is a condition that can occur during any pregnancy. Some women develop it as early as their twenties.
Tokophobia can develop for many reasons, it may be a story told to you from friends or family of their experiences, previous negative experience of childbirth, previous traumatic experiences with gynaecological procedures or because of past traumatic experiences such as rape or sexual assault.
There are many different options available to help you through this and allow you to enjoy the rest of your pregnancy. Things like psychological therapy, EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) or a space to discuss your birthing options that may help lessen your fears.
If this sounds like something you might be experiencing please contact the specialist mental health midwife Kate Knightly-Jones via Sapling antenatal clinic number (01322 428190 Mon-Fri 09.00-16.00).