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A mother’s history of mental ill health prior to the pregnancy is an important element to factor in, since prior anxieties and mood issues may have the potential to impact you, both during the pregnancy and after. If you have stopped taking medication for a mental ill health issue in the lead up to or during pregnancy, this may also affect your ongoing mental health. Ambivalence about body issues, poor body image and a history of or an ongoing eating disorder may also impact on your attitude to both eating and body shape changes as well as variable issues of control, both during and after pregnancy. Mental ill health in a mother requires an extra layer of risk management. 

Some mental ill health conditions that require monitoring and support during pregnancy include:

  • Severe Anxiety, Generalised Anxiety Disorder or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Major depression or severe Postnatal Depression
  • Bipolar disorder,  Schizophrenia, Schizo-affective disorder, Post-partum Psychosis
  • Eating Disorders, specifically Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, specifically linked to sexual trauma, birth related trauma or medical trauma
  • Substance Misuse Disorder

Of course, a partner’s mental health history is equally important in how it may be affected during and after birth, as well as the impact it could have on the relationship.

Take steps to talk to your GP about perinatal mental health support available in your area. Together with your midwife and obstetrician, mental health professionals in a perinatal or community mental health team can offer treatment and support. Self-care is a first step – make sure you get adequate sleep, exercise, eat a balanced diet, rest and quit smoking. Treatments include talking therapies as well as pregnancy safe medication. Often the health visitor will also be part of the team in order to follow up your mental health needs after birth.