Looking after your mental health with a new baby

Pregnancy and birth can be a magical time for a family, but it can also be very tough and difficult to adjust to. 

Adjusting to a new lifestyle, recovering from a traumatic birth and bonding with your baby can be difficult, so it’s important to look after your mental health at these times. If you do experience challenges with your mental health as a new parent, remember that you are not alone and there is a lot of support out there to help you. 

Why you might be struggling

  • If you have an existing mental health condition such as borderline personality disorder, bipolar or psychosis, you might find pregnancy and birth extra hard. You should make sure your midwife or health visitor is aware of any existing conditions so they can put a plan in place for you.
  • The “baby blues”. In the first week after childbirth, new mums go through hormonal changes and may be tearful or irritable and have mood swings. This usually lasts 3 to 5 days. If it lasts longer, it could be a good idea to talk to a GP. The NHS has advice on how to tell the difference between baby blues and postnatal depression.  
  • Traumatic birth. Sometimes things don’t go according to the birth plan or there may have been urgent medical intervention. It can also be an anxious time for dads and non-birthing partners. These experiences can affect your bond with your baby and other important people around you.
  • Adjusting to family life. When there is a new baby in the home, everything revolves around them. Even if this isn’t your first child, getting to know your baby’s wants and needs is like learning a new skill, which can be stressful. Try to limit your daily plans to begin with and keep communicating with your partner and support network.
  • Difficult paths to parenthood. If you have been through miscarriage or infertility or welcomed your baby through surrogacy or adoption; you might feel a heightened sense of anxiety when it comes to finally bringing your baby home.

How you can help yourself

  • Look after yourself and each other. Basic things like making sure you are hydrated and fed and getting some fresh air can help you get through the day. Read NCT’s 10 self-care tips for new mums. 
  • Talk to friends and family. Be open about how you feel so they can offer support and guidance  
  • Baby massage courses. These courses can help you and your baby relax and build connections. One or both parents can attend their course and there are a range of classes offered privately or you can be referred by your health visitor. 
  • Visit your local children’s centre. Children’s centres offer a wide variety of support and advice for parents of children under 5. 
  • Local parent and baby groups. Going to groups can help you to feel connected to your community and enable you to meet people going through similar experiences where you can share your knowledge and understanding.  

Where to get help

If you are struggling with your mental health during pregnancy or think you might have postnatal depression, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. 

  • If you are having suicidal thoughts, or you or your child are in danger, call 999, your local NHS mental health helpline or a support service. 
  • Speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP if you’re worried about your mental health. 
  • If you’ve had a traumatic birth, you can speak to the Birth Trauma Association. The hospital or birth centre where your baby was born should also offer a birth reflection service where you can speak to a midwife about what happened during the birth. 
  • You can find resources and support through the Maternal Mental Health Alliance. 

You can also read our advice if you’re struggling to cope as a parent. Or for advice on your specific issue, speak to one of our parenting coaches. 

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This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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