Information for the public

Deciding on possible treatments

All healthcare professionals should involve you in decisions about your care and the care of your baby. They should give you information about the risks and benefits of different treatments and discuss the options with you. They should treat you with compassion and should respect your role in caring for your baby.

There are 2 main types of treatments for mental health problems:

  • psychological therapy (talking with a therapist about feelings and thoughts and how these affect behaviour and wellbeing, or working through a computer program or book, on your own or with some help from a therapist), and

  • medication.

If you have a mental health problem or are at risk of developing one, your doctor should discuss with you how your symptoms might be monitored while you are pregnant. You may be offered more support and your doctor may see you more often.

If you have or might have a mental health problem when you are pregnant or in the year after giving birth, you should be able to get treatment more quickly. You should have an assessment within 2 weeks of being referred. If psychological therapy is an option, you should be able to have this within a month of your first assessment.

Taking medication

If you decide to take medication when you are pregnant or when you are breastfeeding, you should be offered the type with the least risk for you and your baby. You should be offered the lowest amount that will still work and should usually not take more than 1 type.

Some medication can cause problems for unborn babies if taken in the first 3 months of pregnancy. If you are taking one of these types of medication and you think you might be pregnant, your doctor should confirm your pregnancy as soon as possible. They should arrange counselling if you are unsure about continuing the pregnancy and should offer to check your unborn baby for possible problems. They should make sure you know about the risks if you carry on taking the medication and explain that you'll need more checks throughout pregnancy.

There is more information about the risks with different types of medication in more information about medication.

Psychological therapy and other options

If you would like to stop medication when you are pregnant, but medication is the best treatment for your mental health problem, your doctor should talk to you about your reasons for wanting to stop medication and about the risks to you and your baby.

One option is to change to a medication that has lower risks for both of you. If you decide that you don't want to take any medication while you are pregnant, you should be offered psychological therapy if you're not having this already and it is appropriate for your mental health problem. You should be able to carry on with psychological therapy if you were having it before you became pregnant.

  • Information Standard