Having a baby is a big life event, and it's natural to experience a range of emotions and reactions during and after your pregnancy. But if they start to have a big impact on how you live your life, you might be experiencing a mental health problem.
Around one in five women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth. This might be a new mental health problem or another episode of a mental health problem you've experienced before. These are known as perinatal mental health problems.
Perinatal depression is depression experienced during pregnancy (known as ante or prenatal depression) or after childbirth (known as postnatal depression). Many people are aware of postnatal depression but it's less commonly known that you can experience depression during pregnancy as well.
More than 1 in 3 new fathers (38%) are concerned about their mental health. In general, studies have shown that 1 in 10 fathers have postnatal depression and fathers also appear to be more likely to suffer from depression three to six months after their baby is born.
You may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
You might feel:-
Some of these experiences – like lack of concentration, disturbed sleep and lack of interest in sex – are all common after becoming a parent, but it's still important to mention them to your doctor if you're concerned you might have postnatal depression.
It's very common to experience depression and anxiety together. If you experience anxiety, you might find that you identify with some of the physical and psychological sensations below. Anxiety can feel different for different people, so you might also experience other kinds of feelings, which aren't listed here.
"I was dealing with panic attacks, and distressing thoughts about my baby being better off without me."
Perinatal obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) (e.g., having obsessions and compulsions that relate to your feelings about being a parent and your baby) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (e.g., a traumatic childbirth) are also common maternal mental health conditions.
"I spent the first few months of my daughter's life consumed with anxiety that I would somehow contaminate her. My hands were raw from constant washing. I got the help I needed and am finally enjoying being a mummy."
"During my second pregnancy, I had an experience seeing blood on a public toilet seat which led onto a severe obsession with the irrational thought that I had contracted HIV. This irrational thought took over my life. It turned into what felt like a huge monster."
"I had a traumatic birth. I was so petrified that my son would die that in my head it was easier not to love him just in case."
"I had disturbing thoughts of sexually abusing my child. Of course I never had, would or wanted to which is why I felt so terrible."
Postnatal depression can happen whatever your family circumstances, and whether or not the baby is your first. You may have managed happily with your first baby and yet become depressed after your second, or the other way around. There is no one cause for postnatal depression, but you are more likely to develop postnatal depression if you have had depression before (especially during pregnancy), you do not have a supportive partner, your baby is unwell, you had a difficult labour, you lost your own mother when you were a child, or if you have had several stresses in a short time.
The sort of treatment you're offered for postnatal depression will depend on:
The main treatments for postnatal depression are:
** Information in this section is kindly provided by the mental health charity MIND **