- It’s just as important to look after your mental health and wellbeing during pregnancy as your physical health.
- If you are mentally healthy, you will be in the best position to manage the challenges of pregnancy and life with a new baby.
- Some expectant parents develop mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety during pregnancy.
- If anxiety is affecting your ability to function, or you have a low mood lasting longer than 2 weeks, it’s a good idea to see your doctor or midwife for advice and support.
- Getting enough rest, exercising, eating healthy meals and reducing stress will all help you maintain your mental wellbeing during pregnancy.
How can pregnancy affect my mental health and wellbeing?
Preparing to have a baby is an exciting time, but also a challenging one. Don’t be surprised if you experience some emotional change at this time.
It's normal to have some worries and fears about what's coming when you're pregnant. Many people feel quite stressed at this time, particularly when they know it's a big change that they can't fully prepare for or control.
In addition, pregnancy itself can be stressful. As well as coping with hormonal and physical changes, you may feel stressed about things such as antenatal tests. You may feel especially worried you've had a bad experience before, such as a miscarriage.
For these reasons, pregnancy can increase the likelihood of developing a mental health condition.
Listen to Dianne Zalitis, midwife, talk about How to get your brain ready for a baby on the Babyology podcast.
What mental health conditions can I experience during pregnancy?
Both partners can experience mental health conditions during the pregnancy (the 'antenatal' period), as well as after the birth (the 'postnatal' period).
For some people, pregnancy can lead to conditions such as:
Up to 1 in 10 females and 1 in 20 males experience antenatal depression. Antenatal anxiety is also common, and many people experience anxiety and depression at the same time.
Certain factors can put you at greater risk of developing anxiety and depression during pregnancy. These include:
- a previous mental health condition
- feeling that you don't have enough support
- going through a hard time, such as in your relationship
- past or current abuse of any sort
- problems with drugs or alcohol
Anyone can have a mental health condition — it’s nothing to be ashamed about.
When is it time for me to get help?
It's a good idea for all expectant parents to monitor their mental health and wellbeing. Keep a lookout for signs that you may need help and be ready to take action if you need to.
While pregnancy has its ups and downs, it’s time to seek advice from a health professional if:
- you've felt consistently bad (for example, if you feel sad or worried) for longer than 2 weeks
- negative thoughts and feelings are starting to affect your ability to function normally
- you're showing signs of depression, such as losing interest, or feeling hopeless or unable to cope
- you feel anxious or worried most or all of the time
- you start having panic attacks, or develop obsessive or compulsive behaviours
There’s lots of help available for mental health conditions during pregnancy. Your doctor or midwife can give you support and advice.
How can I manage my mental wellbeing during pregnancy?
There are plenty of things you can do to help manage your mental health and wellbeing during pregnancy.
- Don’t expect too much of yourself – be realistic about what you can do; rest when you need to.
- Try not to make major changes at this time, like moving house or changing jobs, unless you have to.
- Keep physically active (check with your doctor or midwife before you start an exercise program).
- Eat regular, healthy meals.
- Spend time with people who make you feel relaxed and good about yourself.
- Avoid using drugs or alcohol to deal with stress.
- Make connections with other expectant parents so you can support each other.
- Accept help if it’s offered to you; ask for help if you need it.
Where can I go for advice and support?
- Talk to your partner, or someone else you trust.
- Ask your GP or midwife for advice.
- Call one of these support services:
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: June 2022