Having a baby is a big life event

Perinatal Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing.

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.

During the first week after childbirth, many women get what's often called the "baby blues". Women can experience a low mood and feel mildly depressed at a time when they expect they should feel happy after having a baby. "Baby blues" are probably due to the sudden hormonal and chemical changes that take place in your body after childbirth.

Symptoms can include:

  • feeling emotional and bursting into tears for no apparent reason

  • feeling irritable or touchy

  • low mood

  • anxiety and restlessness

All these symptoms are normal and usually only last for a few days. But if these feelings do not resolve after a couple of days or start to have a negative impact on how you live your life, you might be experiencing a mental health problem.

This could be a new mental health problem or reoccurrence of a previous mental health problem you've experienced before. This is known as a perinatal mental health problem and 1 in 5 women experience mild to severe mental ill-health during pregnancy or after birth.

Perinatal is the period of time when you become pregnant and up to a year after giving birth. You might also have heard of the following terms:

  • Antenatal or pre-natal meaning 'before birth'

  • Postnatal or postpartum meaning 'after birth'

  • There's no right or wrong word to describe the period of time around pregnancy and after birth. You might hear your doctor or midwife use any of these terms.

The role of your health visitor in Perinatal Mental Health

  • Raise awareness by having a conversation with you about perinatal mental health.

  • Enquire about any current mental health illness you may have or had in the past.

  • Enquire about your family’s mental health history (this is because a mother may be at an increased risk of perinatal mental health illness if a close female relative has suffered from perinatal mental health illness)

  • Ask mothers specific questions (recommended in NICE guidance) about their mental health at all routine contacts in the perinatal period.

  • Offer to complete further mental health questionnaires when indicated called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and /or the a questionnaire about anxiety called the GAD-7. These questionnaires are also recommended in Nice Guidance and help us work out how you are feeling in more detail.

  • Give you information about interventions and support that are available to support and help recovery from perinatal mental health illness and promote emotional wellbeing.

  • Liaise with your GP and/or other services with your permission and as appropriate to ensure you receive the help, support and co-ordinated care you need.

  • In some cases, if appropriate your health visitor may offer you some “listening visits” to help you explore your feelings or refer you to a group the health visiting service runs in partnership with Sutton Uplift called Wellbeing SPACE (Supporting Parenting and Caring Experiences). Your health visitor can tell you more about this group if you are interested.

Dads, partners and Perinatal mental health
Recent studies suggest that partners can also experience mental health problems in the perinatal period. For example, studies into postnatal depression in fathers suggest that around one in five men experience depression after becoming fathers.

Getting help
If you think you are experiencing a perinatal mental health illness , don't struggle alone. It's not a sign that you're a bad parent or are unable to cope, it is an illness and you need to get help, just as you would if you had the flu or a broken leg.

Talk to someone you trust, such as your partner or a friend. It's also important to see your GP. If you don't feel up to making an appointment, ask someone to do it for you. Call the health visitor advice line: 0208 770 5409. You can talk to a health visitor about how you are feeling. If appropriate we can arrange a one to one contact with you either at home or in clinic for further assessment and discussion about support and interventions that may help you.

You can also self refer to Sutton Uplift. www.suttonuplift.co.uk Tel 0800 032 1411 or 0203 513 4044 Mon - Fri 9am-6pm.

In some cases, or to manage your wellbeing if you have an existing mental health illness you can be referred to the South West London Perinatal Mental Health Service for more specialist support and treatment. You can find out more about this service at their website: www.swlstg.nhs.uk/our-services/find-a-service

Further Online information you may find useful:
Perinatal Positively perinatalpositivity.org/ This website has a film that you may find useful to watch as well as lots of other information and suggestions for self help.

Mind www.mind.org.uk Has lots of useful information about different mental health illnesses that may be experienced in the perinatal period.

The Pandas Foundation www.pandasfoundation.org.uk (PANDAS also have a very useful facebook page)

Cocoon Family Support www.cocoonfamilysupport.org

Association for Postpartum Psychosis www.app-network.org