Every week across Birmingham, we offer a wide range of services to help mothers and partners overcome the symptoms associated with pre and postnatal depression including low mood and/or high anxiety during pregnancy or up to 2 years after having a baby.
In this section you will find information about how to access our services and other information, resources and links you may find helpful.
Please click on the sections below for more information.
Maternal/paternal mental health problems, or perinatal mental health problems as they're often called, are more common than you think. In fact one in 5 new mums experience them and up to one in 10 new dads and partners. These mental health problems can range from anxiety, low mood and depression to more severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and psychosis. Some will have suffered mental health problems before but, for others, symptoms are new and frightening for the whole family.
Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems during pregnancy and new parenthood, with around 12% of women and 6% of men experiencing depression and 13% women or 6.5% men experiencing anxiety at some point; many will experience both. People who are experiencing depression/anxiety have a number of changes to their mood, their thinking, their behaviour and their bodily functioning which persist for weeks or months and which can lead to major disruption in their lives.
The other mental health problems like panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, postpartum psychosis, exacerbation of eating disorders and tokophobia (fear of giving birth) are less common but still account for up to 8 percent of all new birthing parents and can also affect their partners. It is important to remember that all of these problems, even the most severe, are usually temporary with the right treatment and support.
The parents who experience perinatal mental health problems cannot control their symptoms on their own. It is not their choice and will require love, patience, understanding and support to get them through this. The symptoms may lead to poor bonding with the baby and difficulties with breastfeeding (which can itself lead to distress, anxiety and low mood).
Good parental mental health is very important for the the development of the baby before and after birth. This makes it really important to recognise the problem quickly, to talk about it, and to get help. Having a baby is a highly stressful time, fuelled by sleep deprivation and the huge increase in responsibility that comes with a baby. Nothing quite prepares you for this and it can often contribute to mental health problems.
The most common symptoms can include persistent feelings of sadness and low mood, poor concentration, feeling unable to cope, loss of interest in sex, tiredness, avoiding contact with people, change in appetite, loss of pleasure in normally enjoyed activities, unable to get out of bed, thoughts of suicide and/or harming self and/or the baby.
Anxiety symptoms can also include feeling persistently afraid, worried, nervous, on edge, detached, panicky. You may also find it hard to learn and apply the skills of parenthood and get into an effective routine, start to feel that the family would be better off without you, have frequent worries about the health and welfare of the baby, have persistent, intrusive and frightening thoughts that you or they might harm baby constantly think things like, "I'm a terrible parent/person" or "They're going to take my baby away."
You may feel very isolated and alone, not knowing who you can talk to about them and whether they're normal. One of the worst fears is often whether you and your partner will ever be able to return to the way you were before, or is this the way it will always be from now on?
You are unlikely to experience all of the symptoms at the same time but if you recognise yourself amongst them please don't ignore it. This Q&A section will help give you some basic advice about what to do and the links on this page offer free services of who can help.
Anybody can get mental health problems when having a baby, at any time of life, irrespective of gender, age, culture or social background. It happens to men as well as women and is really common. It's important to keep in mind that this is not a sign of a 'weak character' or other inadequacy. Many gifted, successful and powerful people have experienced mental health problems in their lives. Additional risk factors include: if a close relative has experienced mental health problems, psychological make up and personality, major life events, physical illnesses, isolation, relationship breakdown, money worries, struggling with gender and/or sexuality.
There are many types of perinatal mental health problems and most of them include some aspect of depression and/or anxiety. Most of them can affect both parents.
Postpartum Psychosis is a rare but serious and potentially life threatening mental health issue. It takes the form of severe depression or mania or both. For the few women who experience postpartum psychosis, it occurs in the first 3 months after birth, usually within the first 2 weeks and develops rapidly.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events such as traumatic labour/birth. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks and may experience feelings of isolation, anger, frustration, disappointment, irritability and guilt.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder which causes people to experience obsessive thoughts followed by compulsive behaviours. Obsessions are overwhelming unwanted thoughts which cause anxiety, disgust or unease and lead to the need to carry out activities usually repetitively in an attempt to temporarily relieve the distressing feelings of the obsessive thoughts.
Tokophobia is a specific phobia of childbirth ie an overwhelming, debilitating fear of childbirth, which can be so intense that pregnancy and/or childbirth is avoided.
Postnatal Depression (PND) and Anxiety PND is a type of mood disorder which is usually accompanied by increased anxiety. It can range from mild to severe and occur any time from pregnancy up to 2 years following birth. Sometimes anxiety can be the dominant symptom.
Pre/postnatal depression/anxiety (PND) is the most common perinatal mental health problem and accounts for almost two-thirds of all recorded cases of perinatal problems. In addition many cases of PND/Anxiety go undiagnosed as parents try to just press on through! PND is a depressive illness which develops in parents before or after childbirth. Anxiety is almost always a component of PND and sometimes the anxiety is the dominant symptom. In some parents it happens fairly suddenly and usually within a few weeks after giving birth. They often describe it as "like a switch has been turned off." In others it develops gradually over a period of weeks and may not be noticed by those around them for quite some time. It can occur at any time in the first year or so and in some parents it can actually start during pregnancy.
Postnatal depression may last for weeks or months and in some it may last into the child's second year if not detected and treated adequately. The symptoms a parent will experience are very much the same as those of depression generally. The important difference with postnatal depression is that there is a new and dependant baby in the mix. Also, postnatal depression develops at a time when parents usually anticipate pleasure and fulfilment in the experience of parenthood and this can add additional pressure to ignore and play the symptoms down and pretend everything is alright.
The good news is that perinatal mental health problems can be treated. Most parents make a full recovery and, as with all health conditions, the sooner they are recognised, and appropriate help is sought, the better.
At the milder end of the scale, measures aimed at giving parents some space to talk about their feelings along with increasing practical and social support are helpful. This can be achieved through enlisting the help of family and friends to relieve some of the practical load or to spend time providing a non-judgemental listening ear and encouragement. It is worth googling your local voluntary organisations and Home-Start as these can play very useful roles in recovery. You can also use click here to use the Hearts and Minds locator Map to search for local groups. Just enter your postcode.
Further on up the scale antidepressants or other medications are often useful and sometimes more specialist psychological help such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). These can usually be arranged through the GP (or local IAPT service) along with more specialist support for those with higher needs.
For the most poorly parents treatment may include referral to the community specialist perinatal team and/or to the Mother and Baby Unit where they can receive more intensive specialist support for themselves and baby. Referrals can be made by your Midwife, Health Visitor or GP.
A usual episode of depression/anxiety will generally resolve within a matter of weeks or months. Recovery rarely follows a smooth path and typically involves ups and downs. The best advice is to take it one day at a time.
More severe mental health problems may vary in duration but the sooner help is sought, and begins, the sooner things will start to improve.
The first step is to recognise and acknowledge that you are ill right now and that you need help. This is sometimes really difficult but remember you are not being selfish in doing this. It will be impossible for you to look after your baby and your family if you are struggling yourself. This season will pass and it's great you've taken the first step to get a bit more information on how you can help yourself. Just remember to take it easy on yourself and not to set the bar too high during this difficult time.
Use the links on this website and watch some of the video's of other mums at the bottom of the page who have been through similar experiences. There are also some father's stories at the bottom of the Acacia Dads page. You can access the dads stories by clicking here and scrolling down to the bottom of the page.
The GP, Midwife and Health Visitor are key people to speak to. Be totally honest about how you are feeling. You won't be saying anything that they haven't heard before and the sooner you can get some help the sooner you can start the journey back to wellness.
Try to do some regular exercise and relaxation activities - as much as time will allow right now. After all a baby gives you a good reason for a walk around your local park, which will also give you some much needed time to yourself.
It might sound simple but it's so important to maintain a healthy(ish) diet and eat regularly - don't skip breakfast! Your brain and your body needs energy if you want it to function well and cope with increased stress.
Find someone to confide in about it. A close friend or family member perhaps. If you live in Birmingham, Acacia provides such a service. If you live elsewhere please click here to visit the Hearts and Minds Map to see what's available locally to you.
Most importantly don't try to sweep it under the carpet.
Don't put it off any longer to get the ball rolling. You owe it to yourself, your family, and your new baby to ensure that you're well and at your best right now. If you feel like you are struggling check out what's available.
How To Access Support Outside of Birmingham
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If you feel like you are in crisis
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Find your local children's centre and health visiting team
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Coronavirus and your pregnancy and new baby - free guides
Good Hope Hospital Heartlands Hospital Birmingham Women's Hospital Being Pregnant Preparing to Give Birth Being with Your Baby, Becoming a Mum Acacia Covid Stay at Home Survival Guide
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Medication information for PND/anxiety
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Acacia group support sessions
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Links, Free Resources and Self Help
General Resources National Resources Short List Dads/Partners Resource List Citalopram Fact Sheet Sertraline Fact Sheet
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Am I in an abusive relationship?
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Acacia Young Parent Project (YPP)
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Miscellaneous Downloadable Documents
PMH Teams Referral Criteria PQ 044 Ethical Fundraising Policy PQ 018 Confidentiality and Data Protection PQ 009 Compliments and Complaints Policy PQ 00d Domestic Abuse Policy PQ 002c Prevent Policy PQ 002b Modern Slavery Statement PQ 002 Acacia Safeguarding Policy Agency Referral Form Self Referral Form Acacia Leaflet Privacy Notice for Clients Acacia Printable Poster What does being a Christian charity meant to Acacia? Postnatal depression booklet Young Parents Leaflet Volunteering for Acacia Flyer Volunteers Privacy Notice Complaints and Compliments Form The wall of a healthy child
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Please remember that Acacia is not a crisis service and if you are feeling really unwell with your mental health and are concerned you must contact your GP or mental health professional as soon as possible. If you feel like you are suffering a mental health crisis:
For Forward Thinking Birmingham (24 yrs and younger) 0300 300 0099.
If you live in Birmingham and need help?
If you need help or support or have any questions please call.
0121 301 5990
or click here to email us