Mental health

Mental health and a new baby

Mental health during pregnancy and for the first year after the baby is born is often called Perinatal mental health. Perinatal is just a word that means the time between the start of your pregnancy up to roughly one year after giving birth. You may also here the term ‘antenatal’ that means before birth and ‘postnatal’ that means after birth.

Bonding with your baby

Having a new baby is a huge change and it is completely normal not to fall in love with your baby whilst you are pregnant, or even when you first see them. Many women find their love for their baby grows as they spend time together, like holding and talking to them. It's something that develops over time. It is also important for Dads to be involved and to bond with the baby in the early stages – the Dad Pad app is a great resource for both new and experienced Dads.

Baby bonding links:

Its not all smiles and laughter

The first few weeks with a baby can be hard – really hard! You'll have lovely moments, but taking care of the easiest baby can be very tiring and messy. Babies have no sense of day and night, so you might not get much sleep.

During this time, you'll also be in the process of recovering from childbirth. If you've chosen to breastfeed, both you and your baby will be learning how to do this too. It can be a challenging period, and you may find yourself getting upset over little things. Don't worry, as this is something every new mum experiences and things will improve with time.

It's common to put all your focus on caring for your new baby, but remember to take care of yourself too. Try to eat well, grab some sleep when possible, and let someone else help with the baby, even if it's just to take a long shower.

Here are some tips on self-care for new mums:

The baby blues and crying

The "baby blues" usually start within the week baby is born and last for a few weeks. It is very common and can involve feeling very emotional and overwhelmed, crying, feeling agitated, feeling anxious and feeling down.

These feelings are normal and result from hormonal changes as your body transitions from pregnancy. The baby blues don't require treatment, but talking to someone about how you're feeling can be helpful.

Perinatal or Postnatal Depression

Having the baby blues is very different to having postnatal depression. Postnatal depression involves constant feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, or self-blame that last for weeks or months after childbirth.

The severity of symptoms can vary, and it affects women differently. For some, severe depression may make it challenging to care for themselves and their baby.

Postnatal depression is a mental health condition, not a sign of weakness, something that will naturally go away, or something you can just "snap out of." The good news is that it can be treated with the right care and support, and most women can fully recover.

1 in 4 Mums experience some form of postnatal depression. If you suspect you have symptoms of depression that persist for more than two weeks, don't hesitate to talk to your midwife or GP for help and guidance.

1 in 1000 Mums experience a more significant Mental Health condition called postnatal psychosis (sometimes called puerperal psychosis). There are resources below with information and advice.