It has been estimated that a fifth of us will develop a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the first year of our baby’s lives, with some suggesting that the issue is only going to get worse during the coronavirus pandemic due to a vital lack of support for expectant and new mothers. So it is crucial that we not only understand what to look out for and the signs of conditions including postnatal depression and postnatal psychosis, but also know how to seek help.
Unfortunately, as many appointments with health visitors and GPs are either moved onto the phone, video calls, or are lacking completely amid the global pandemic, many vulnerable women are not being given the support they need. However, there are still a number of ways to receive help here in the UK – and they’re all free. Please do seek help if you are suffering with your mental health, or if you are concerned about someone you know, using the resources below.
See your GP
One of the best ways to receive the support you need is to contact your GP. They will decide the best course of treatment for you, such as counselling or medication, and can help to refer you to a psychological therapy service or a specialist mental health service for further advice or treatment. Visit the NHS website for more details on what services the NHS offers.
Self refer on the NHS for mental health support
If for some reason you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your GP, you may be able to self refer for mental health support on the NHS. Most areas have a service called IAPT (improving access to psychological therapies), where you can self refer for support including talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling and guided self-help. Visit the NHS website to find your nearest IAPT.
Contact PANDAS Foundation
PANDAS offers peer-to-peer support and is invaluable if you need someone to talk to. As well as a free helpline and email support, they also run in-person support groups across the UK, all led by trained group managers that aim to help you connect with likeminded people and share your experiences. Get more details at pandasfoundation.org.uk.
Receive support from Birth Better
Whether you had a traumatic birth or are struggling due to infertility, baby loss, bonding challenges or anything else, Birth Better can help. This charity helps mothers and their partners who may be struggling with their mental health by finding the right support that will help them on their path to recovery. Get all the details on the Birth Better website.
Contact Home Start
Home Start is a charity that may be able to provide you with the support you need as a new parent. They offer a service which pairs you with a volunteer who visits you to offer practical and emotional support, along with specialist support groups such as Mums in Mind. Find out more at home-start.org.uk.
Hopefully, perinatal mental health support will soon be more widely available across the UK thanks to the launch of the new NHS maternal mental health hubs. Plans are in place to open 26 hubs to offer physical health checks and psychological therapy in one building, with all 44 local NHS areas expected to have one by April 2024.