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Treatments for mental illness during & after pregnancy

Treatments for mental illness during pregnancy or after your baby is born may be a bit different to treatments for other adults with mental illness. When treating you at this time, doctors have to consider the needs and safety of your baby, during your pregnancy and while you're breastfeeding.

Both you and your baby will be affected by treatments, so both your needs must be considered.

You might start medications sooner if you have a newborn baby. This is because the effect of an untreated mental illness can cause long-term harm to your child’s development.

On the other hand, if you have a mild mental illness, you might decide to avoid medications to reduce your baby's exposure to them. This would be after discussions with your doctor, and if it looks like non-medication options might work.

Online therapies and education

These courses can encourage you to get help, help you understand your illness, and motivate you with goals.

You can learn more about mindfulness meditation on the Australian site Smiling Mind (it has a free app) or the American site Headspace (it also has a free app, for an introductory 10-day programme).

Psychological treatments (talking therapy)

Talking therapy helps to different degrees, depending on the mental illness.

For information about talking therapy for various mental illnesses, see Anxiety disorder treatments and Treatment options for depression.

Your GP should be able to recommend a therapist whose charges you can afford, or refer you for some free counselling.


Medications may be available to treat your mental illness, but it depends on the stage of your pregnancy. If you've given birth, it depends on whether or not you're breastfeeding.

Your doctor will need to weigh up the benefits to you and your baby of taking medications, against the risk of harm to you both.

You can find advice about medication use in pregnancy on the UK site bumps (best use of medicines in pregnancy). You can also find out more about the particular medicines you are taking in Medications for mental health issues.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Community support for mental illness during & after pregnancy

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


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