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HealthInfo Canterbury

About mental illness during & after pregnancy

Low mood, depression, and anxiety in pregnancy, or immediately after a baby is born, is common and affects many women.

For some women, this might be the first time they experience mental illness. For others, a mental illness that was previously stable might come back during pregnancy or after their baby is born.

Anxiety and depression are most common. In rare cases, psychosis can also develop, as can bipolar disorder.

Some women are at a greater risk than others of becoming mentally unwell during pregnancy or after childbirth. They are more likely to become mentally unwell if they:

If you're feeling excessively depressed, anxious, or just not quite right, you should talk to your GP early and get help. These conditions can be treated and you'll feel better.

Anxiety

Many women experience anxiety while pregnant or after their baby is born. Their anxiety is understandable, since this is a time of great change and anticipation. It can, however, become very exhausting.

Depression

Having depression when you're pregnant, or after your baby is born is common. You can have depression even when you wanted to get pregnant, and you love your baby. It doesn't mean you're rejecting your baby.

Mixed feelings about having a baby, and all the changes that go with that are very common. Symptoms of postnatal depression include:

This isn't good for you, or your baby. Your baby relies on you for its emotional and physical wellbeing so get help early. This will get you the support and treatment you need to get back on track.

Other conditions

Women with a history of mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder may become unwell during pregnancy and the postnatal period. These women will need to be closely monitored for any changes during this time.

Rarely pregnant women or new mothers may develop a condition called postnatal psychosis. This most often happens in the first month after giving birth. A woman with postnatal psychosis might start thinking very unusual thoughts, believing peculiar things and acting in strange ways. Seek advice from a medical professional if you're concerned about a new mother acting in this way or have concerns.

Postnatal psychosis can be hard to recognise as the woman might not share her thoughts with others. It needs treatment, and usually, an admission to a psychiatric hospital.

Important

If a friend is depressed and considering suicide, or is behaving unusually, and this is causing you or others to worry about her or her baby’s safety, phone the Depression Helpline on 0800‑111‑757 or txt 4202 (available 24/7). Or you can contact your local mental health crisis team:

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Living with mental illness during & after pregnancy

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by Consultant Psychiatrist, Mothers and Babies Service, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed March 2018.

Sources

Page reference: 416277

Review key: HIMIP-416276