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Tips on improving mental wellbeing

Expecting a baby can be a joyful and exciting time. However, it is also common for pregnant women to experience anxiety, depression or emotional distress. As many as one in four women experience emotional difficulties during pregnancy. This can happen to anyone.

First appointment with your midwife

At your booking appointment, the midwife will ask you questions about your mental and physical health so that they can find out whether you need any extra support. Every woman is asked these questions. Even if you don’t have a specific mental health issue, it’s a good idea to talk to the midwife if you’re feeling anxious or feel like you are isolated and/or do not have support.

Your midwife will ask you:

  • how you are feeling
  • whether you have or have ever had mental health difficulties
  • whether you have ever been treated by a specialist mental healthservice
  • whether a close relative has ever had severe mental illness duringpregnancy or after birth.
  • It’s important to be honest with the midwife about how you feel.

They won’t judge you, and they can help you get support or treatment if youneed it. If the midwife thinks you need more support after talking to you, they will refer you to the most appropriate service for your needs such as talking therapies, a specialist midwife, specialist perinatal services or your GP.

During your pregnancy

It is not uncommon for mental health problems to start during pregnancy, so if you have any of the symptoms below at any point, speak to your midwife or doctor as soon as possible. If you are unwell they can arrange treatment to help.

  • feeling low or anxious most of the time for more than two weeks
  • losing interest in things you normally like
  • having panic attacks
  • feeling worthless or guilty
  • losing your appetite
  • having unpleasant thoughts that keep coming back and you can’t control them
  • finding yourself repeating an action (like washing, checking, counting) to feel better
  • finding your thoughts race and you become extremely energetic and happy
  • feeling you are so afraid of giving birth that you don’t want to go through with it
  • continual thoughts that you are an unfit mother or that you’re not attached to the baby
  • thoughts about self harm or suicide

You should also tell your midwife or doctor if you have (or have had) an eating disorder, as you may benefit from additional support to deal with your body’s changes through pregnancy and beyond.

Tips for improving your mental wellbeing in pregnancy

It may seem like everyone else is happy and coping, but it doesn’t mean they are. Lots of women feel low in pregnancy, but many women who feel down may try and hide it. Here are some tips to improve your emotional wellbeing:

Exercise and eat well

Swimming, walking, running, dancing, yoga - whatever works for you - keep doing it through pregnancy. Exercise gives you a chance to focus on something different, and is great for you and your baby’s health. A surgeof endorphins, or stress-relieving stretches, can help you feel good and sleep better. Good nutrition will keep you healthy and help your baby grow and develop.

Take time out for yourself every day

Do something you enjoy that’s just for you: take a warm bath, chill out to some music, close your eyes, massage your bump – whatever makes you eel peaceful. Doing this will also help your baby’s brain to develop.

Meditation, breathing techniques or hypnobirthing

Many women find meditation and breathing techniques not only help them to relax in pregnancy, but can also help to manage pain in labour. Ask your midwife what classes are available at your maternity unit.

Talk to someone you trust

Getting things off your chest and talking your worries through with an understanding and trustworthy friend, family member or colleague at work can make all the difference. Talk about how you’re feeling.

Ask for practical help from family or friends

If you’re struggling to cope physically or emotionally with your pregnancy - get some help. Whether it’s help with housework, or shopping, or if you have other children, some childcare, try not to exhaust yourself and rest when you need to. If you do not have close supportive relationship, talk to your midwife about how you feel.

Develop a wellbeing plan

You can download and work on a two page personal plan, which help syou to think about your emotional wellbeing during pregnancy and after birth. Download your wellbeing plan here.

Consider talking therapies

Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone that doesn’t know you. It can be a space to voice all your worries and try to make sense, or control some ofthe negative thoughts you might be having. Talking therapy services can provide support to those experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression. Priority is given to pregnant womenand new parents. You can either self-refer over the phone or online, or ask your midwife or GP to do it for you. The service is free and aims to be flexible around your needs.

Here are some talking therapies services:

When to get help

If these tips don’t help you, and you feel low or worried for more than two weeks, it may be something more serious. The good news is that you can get help to feel better. Talk to your midwife or doctor about your options and where you might get support.

More mental wellbeing resources