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Mental health in pregnancy and the year after giving birth

Mental health in pregnancy and the year after giving birth

Pregnancy and having a baby can be exciting but also demanding as women adjust to the change in their lifestyle. It's not uncommon for women to feel more anxious and 'down' at this time. Some go on to develop a mental health problem.

Some women who have a mental health problem stop taking their medication when they find out they are pregnant. This can make their problem come back or get worse. For some women who have had a mental health problem in the past, being pregnant, giving birth and caring for their baby can bring the problem back.

Some of the problems that might happen are listed below.

  • Depression and anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problems at this time.

  • Women can experience anxiety disorders, including obsessive‑compulsive disorder (OCD), tokophobia (extreme fear of giving birth) and post‑traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

  • Changes to body shape can be a particular concern for women with eating disorders.

  • Women with a severe mental illness such as psychosis, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are more likely to have a relapse (become unwell again) than at other times.

  • Severe mental illness may develop more quickly immediately after childbirth than at other times and can be more serious.

The range of mental health problems is the same during pregnancy and after birth as at other times, but some treatments may be different because of possible effects on the baby. Professionals supporting you during pregnancy and after birth might identify that you are at particular risk of developing a mental health problem, or the problem might develop unexpectedly. If you are concerned about your thoughts or feelings, you should seek help and advice.

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