Parental mental health

Pregnancy and parenthood are a time of significant change and transition in someone’s life. It is more common than you might think for mothers, partners and even the wider family to experience a range of emotions during this time.

For many, this will pass but if you're worried about how you're feeling or need a little extra support, speak to your midwife, health visitor, or GP.

Use the drop-down menus below to find out more.

Antenatal Mood

Having a baby can be an exciting time, but often people have mixed feelings as they get used to the idea. Some people may feel happy and excited most of the time. Lots of people have times when they feel down in the dumps and stressed - this is all normal.

There are a lot of changes happening in the body of the pregnant person, and emotionally for both parents. There is a lot to think about. Take your time to get used to the idea.

It can be really hard for the pregnant person to ‘enjoy’ being pregnant if they are feeling ill – this is understandable. A lot of the early symptoms get better as the weeks pass and you may find this helps your feel more positive.

It can feel like you have to know everything about being a parent, but you really don’t. You and your baby will both be learning about each other in the early days. Your baby will feel your love and know they can rely on you.

Tips to help your mood

Everybody adjusts to the idea of being a parent at their own pace. Try not to worry if you can’t quite believe it, or if you don’t feel as excited as you expected to straight away.

  • Whenever you can spend time relaxing and stroking the baby bump.
  • Imagine what your baby will be like – this can help you build an early bond with your baby.
  • Picture the things you are looking forward to doing with your baby once they arrive.
  • Take care of yourself; eat well, get regular exercise and attend all of your antenatal appointments.
  • Practice relaxation techniques – they will help both parents now, during labour and when you are caring for a Newborn. Visit the NHS website for breathing exercises for stress.

Talking and singing to your baby while they’re still in the womb can help both parents begin to build a lasting bond. It can help you begin to feel a stronger connection with your baby and make it seem more ‘real’. This can help you feel more positive and lift your mood.

Your unborn baby will learn to recognise and remember important voices during pregnancy.  The ‘chats’ that you have with your ‘bump’ are good for you both.

It can help you feel more confident and ‘ready’ if you do some thinking about how you want to parent and what your baby will need to feel cared for, safe and secure;

Where can you get help?

Talk to your midwife, health visitor, or GP if you are struggling to have positive feelings about your unborn baby or worried about how you are feeling. It’s important to seek help as soon as possible if you think you might be depressed. 

The Worcestershire Perinatal Mental Health Service helps women at risk of developing, or experiencing moderate to severe mental health difficulties, during pregnancy and during the year following childbirth or require pre-conceptual counselling. You can be referred to the service by any health and social care professional such as your GP, Obstetrician, Midwife or Health Visitor.

Visit the NHS website for more advice and information on the services available to you.

Other support

Useful Apps

You may find that some apps can help your mental health. The NHS Apps library has pregnancy and baby apps and mental health apps.

DadPad is a great resource for all dads to be and new dads.

Support for new parents

Pregnancy and the period after childbirth are a time of significant change and transition in someone’s life. It is more common than you might think for mothers and partners to experience a range of emotions during this time. The majority of these difficulties resolve quickly, for instance, 50-80% of women experience baby blues at around 3-10 days after delivery and this comes and goes very quickly.

Some women experience significant mental health difficulties during pregnancy or after birth, even if they have never experienced mental health difficulties before. These women may need support from specialist services such as the Perinatal Mental Health Service (Worcestershire).

DadPad

DadPad is free online information pack developed by dads for dads; helping fathers across Herefordshire and Worcestershire prepare for family life and tackles the mental health issues which can affect new parents.

The app is available to download from App store or Google Play story and covers a range of topics, such as, breastfeeding support, awareness of mental health difficulties, the anxiety and frustrations that come with parenthood. As well as hands-on advice on nappy changing and surviving with no sleep! It aims to provide new fathers with guidance on how to develop the mind-set, confidence and practical skills needed to meet their baby’s physical and emotional needs.

Visit the DadPad website to download the app for free.

Early days with your baby

How you feel

Every baby is different and so is every parent! Try not to compare yourself, or your baby, with others. What works for one baby may not for another. The most important thing is getting to know what works for your baby, and your family. 

Skin-to-skin contact helps your baby to adjust to life outside the womb. It supports mums to start breastfeeding and helps parents to develop a close, loving relationship with their baby.

Spend time holding your baby so you get to know each other.

  • Keep your baby close to you – most babies want to be held a lot as they get used to being out in the big world and establish feeding patterns. Enjoy these cuddles you will not ‘spoil’ your baby. Knowing you are close by and respond to their needs will help them learn they can rely on you. It will help your baby feel safe and secure.
  • Have their Moses basket/crib/pram close to you. This is an important part of safer sleep  advice too.

It’s great to have visitors and to show off your new baby. Remember it’s ok to ask people to come for a short time or not at all. You need time to settle into being a parent and that’s difficult to do if your house is always full of other people.

Find out how to cope if you feel stressed with the demands of a new baby. There are support services for new parents that may help.

You may feel a bit down, tearful or anxious in the first week after giving birth. This is normal.

If these feelings start later or last for more than 2 weeks after giving birth, it could be a sign of postnatal depression. Postnatal depression and anxiety are common, and there is treatment. Speak to your midwife, GP or health visitor as soon as possible if you think you might be depressed or anxious, they may put you in touch with specialist services such as the Worcestershire Perinatal Mental Health Service.

Where can you get help?

Talk to your midwife, health visitor, or GP if you are struggling to have positive feelings about your unborn baby or worried about how you are feeling. The NHS website offers lots of advice and resources on the different support available to you. 

Other support

All babies cry

Crying is part of a baby’s language. Crying is normal, but can be hard to cope with. Lots of babies don’t cry very much in the first few days after birth so it can feel a shock when the crying increases. 

When your baby cries a lot it can be very stressful and may make you feel lonely. It might knock your confidence. It is important to remember that all babies cry.

Baby crying facts

  • Most babies will cry more often from 2 weeks old and cry most when they are around 6 - 8 weeks old
  • All babies are different and some babies carry on crying more than others
  • You are not doing anything wrong and neither is your baby. It is a stage they are working through and it will pass
  • Sometimes babies cry a lot because they are unwell. If you are worried your baby might be ill you should seek medical advice. There is always someone to ask 24/7. You can call your GP or speak to NHS111 online or by calling 111.

Be careful to always handle your baby gently, never shake them. Some parents and carers have shaken their babies whilst feeling very stressed and babies have sadly been badly injured or died. It is very important to take a break when you need to.

Where can you get help?

Talk to your midwife, health visitor, or GP if you are struggling to have positive feelings about your unborn baby or worried about how you are feeling. The NHS website offers lots of advice and resources on the different support available to you. 

Other support

For some more information about soothing crying babies visit the NHS website.

Parental relationships

All relationships go through ups and downs. It is normal to disagree sometimes. Parenting is hard work and can be a lot of pressure for everyone involved.

Learning how to share how you feel, and listen to how others feel, even when you disagree, is a good skill. If children get to see this it can show them how relationships can work even in harder times.

Looking after your relationship is important for your own wellbeing and for your children. Some of the common problems in parental relationships are a lack of time and tiredness. This leads to mix-ups and poor communication. Giving some attention to these things can improve your relationship whatever other stresses you may have. You, your partner and your children all benefit when you look after your relationship.

For more information and support please visit the reducing parental conflict section.