Perinatal and Post-natal Mental Health
Advice by Dr Gergana Peeva – MD PhD Consultant in Obstetrics and Fetal Medicine
Pregnancy and birth are life changing events for a family and it is natural for you and your partner to feel a lot of emotions which can affect mental wellbeing. Sometimes these can be overwhelming and lead to mental health issues of varying severity. The past couple of years with the Covid-19 pandemic have been an additional source of uncertainty and fear in pregnancy.
Perinatal mental health illness is common. “Perinatal” refers to the time surrounding birth and includes the antenatal period, birth and the postnatal period.
Up to 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men are affected by mental health problems during pregnancy and the year after birth. Unfortunately, half of these cases remain undiagnosed and without appropriate treatment, which can have lasting consequences on wellbeing, not only of women, but also of their partners and children too. Adequate early diagnosis and prompt professional help could reverse the negative impact of the mental health problems.
Raising awareness about perinatal mental health aims to empower women and their partners to recognise red flag symptoms and seek support early from their midwife, GP or obstetrician. They may offer a referral to perinatal mental health services or other emotional support.
Some women may have mild to moderate illness including low mood, anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Others may unfortunately (luckily rarely) have severe depression or develop postpartum psychosis.
Over half of new mothers will experience the ‘Baby Blues’, which start usually 3 to 4 days after birth and last usually a week. Women may have mood swings, burst easily into tears, over-react to things and feel irritable, low and anxious at times. Baby Blues do not require treatment; however, sometimes they can mask a postnatal depression.
Baby Blues lasting longer than two weeks should trigger professional screening for postnatal depression, especially if there is a history of previous depression.
Mental health problems in pregnancy and the postnatal period may be treated with medicine or talking therapies.
Talking therapies can help with common mental health problems like stress, anxiety and depression.
If medicine therapy is indicated, your doctor will offer the safest medicine for pregnancy and/or breastfeeding at the lowest dosage that will still work. With Covid-19 related anxiety there is now a wealth of resources available via RCOG but best speak with your midwife and / or obstetrician who can talk you through your individual risk and can advise on vaccinations or how to keep you and your baby safe in pregnancy.
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Things you can try to help with your mental health
- talk about your feelings to a friend, family member, doctor or midwife
- try calming breathing exercises if you feel overwhelmed
- do physical activity if you can – it can improve your mood and help you sleep
- eat a healthy diet with regular meals
- try to attend antenatal classes to meet other pregnant people
- do not compare yourself to other pregnant people – everyone experiences pregnancy in different ways
- do not be afraid to tell healthcare professionals how you are feeling – they are there to listen and support you
- do not use alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to try and feel better – these can make you feel worse and affect your baby’s growth and wellbeing
This article has been written by Dr Gergana Peeva, MD PhD Consultant in Obstetrics and Fetal Medicine at The Women’s Wellness Centre.
Our Consultant Obstetricians at The Women’s Wellness Centre offer care and reassurance from conception to birth, providing everything you need for a healthy and happy pregnancy. If you wish to know more about our Private Pregnancy Care please contact us on 020 7751 4488 or book an appointment online here.
Dr Gergana Peeva
MD PhD Consultant in Obstetrics and Fetal Medicine
Dr Peeva is a highly qualified specialist in obstetrics and fetal medicine with over 14 years of international clinical experience giving her a global perspective on maternity service.
Dr Peeva graduated with her medical degree from the University of Cologne, Germany and underwent her specialty training in obstetrics and gynaecology in Zurich, Switzerland. She was awarded the Fetal Medicine Diploma after successfully completing a comprehensive fellowship in Fetal medicine at Harris Birthright Research Centre in King’s College Hospital. Her special interests include multiple pregnancies, maternal obstetric complications, high-risk obstetrics, prenatal diagnosis and management of fetal conditions, fetal anomalies and growth restriction. Dr Peeva has published numerous research papers on maternal and fetal conditions. Her main research interest lies in complicated monochorionic pregnancies, on which she defended a PhD thesis.