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Mental health support for expectant parents

Getting ready to have a baby can be both exciting and scary. The flood of new emotions and experiences can feel overwhelming. Many people aren’t used to these highs and lows so can often feel anxious during this time. With the coronavirus outbreak happening, people may be even more worried than usual.

It’s important that you pay attention to your mental health when pregnant, so we’ve put together some tips to help you cope. We have more information and advice on being pregnant during the pandemic, and there is also help on the NHS Inform website.

Understanding your mental health

Looking after your mental wellbeing isn’t just important for you, it is important for your baby too. They might just be a tiny wee thing, but they can pick up on your stress during pregnancy.

It's normal to have some questions or concerns during your pregnancy, particularly at this time. You might also have extra worries during the coronavirus outbreak, like the health of loved ones, your job, or getting sick yourself.

Depression and anxiety is not unusual for soon-to-be mums. It‘s understandable that this might be made worse by the current crisis. So if you are feeling this way, remember that you’re not alone and that there is a lot of support available for you. If you’re worried about how you’re feeling, reach out to your partner or to friends and family for support. Don’t forget, you can always talk to your midwife or GP who will be able to provide expert advice. It is also important to remember that this period will not last forever and that by following the latest advice and guidance on pregnancy you are protecting yourself and your baby.

Tips for your mental health

Tip #1: Talk about your feelings

Speak to your partner or talk to your friends and family about how you feel. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. Talking through your worries can help a great deal.

Tip #2: Be prepared

It’s a good idea to know what changes you might have to make to your birth plan due to the current situation. In addition to your birth partner, women in labour are now allowed an additional birth partner. However, if either birth partner has symptoms of coronavirus, they mustn’t come to the hospital with you, so it’s a good idea to have ‘back up’ birth partner on standby just in case. 

Tip #3: Rest

Whilst you are preparing to give birth, it's important to get as much rest as you can. This might be easier said than done, but try to take advantage of breaks where possible, or let your partner help if they are at home with you.

Tip #4: Take it a day at a time

Try and focus on the here and now. Each day is exciting enough when you’re preparing for life with a baby. Don’t worry too much about the future and things you can’t control. Maybe keep the news to a minimum, stick to trusted news sources and maybe just check them once a day. Social media can be a great way of finding positive stories and can be a way to access peer support.

Advice for dads and partners

This can be a scary time for you too. It is understandable that you might be worried about your partner. Keep up to date with the most recent developments by checking reliable sources like the Scottish Government or NHS Inform websites. But try not to get overwhelmed by the news at the moment.

Due to coronavirus there may be changes to maternity care that may be frustrating. It's important to remember at this time that any changes are designed to keep mum and baby safe. Reach out for support from other family members if you are finding this period hard; talking things over can make a big difference.

You may also feel worried about how you will deal with becoming a parent. Here are some tips to help. You can find more in this leaflet from Fathers' Network Scotland.

Tips for dads-to-be

Tip #1: Spend time with your baby

Even before your wee one’s born you can spend time talking and singing to the bump! Once they’re born, take every chance to stay close and cuddle them, talk to them and sing to them. They won’t understand what you’re saying, but the sound of your voice will be reassuring.

Tip #2: Talk to your partner

Even under normal circumstances, things like lack of sleep and downtime can be stressful and may create tension between you and your partner. Try to find the time to talk about the situation – it may not be easy if you’re both exhausted, but it’s worth it!

Tip #3: Reduce your stress levels

In order to look after your family, you need to look after yourself. Try to eat healthily and exercise when you can, and to make some time for the things you enjoy.

Tip #4: Don't be afraid to ask for help

There are lots of people out there happy to help! Try talking to your friends and family, and be honest about how you’re feeling – it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious or down, particularly in the current situation, but it’s important to get help. Your Health Visitor or Family Nurse is also there to listen and help – they want the best for you, your partner and your baby. 

There are also lots of organisations you can get in touch with – the Fathers’ Network Scotland Directory lists dad-friendly groups and organisations all around the country which provide support, advice or information on your new parenting role.

Tip #5: Don't forget to have fun

Yes, the arrival of a new baby can be exhausting and stressful, but it’s also wonderful. Don’t forget to enjoy this special time with your wee one. Enjoy lots of cuddles and skin-to-skin time. Take plenty of photos and share them with your friends and family. Relax in the quiet times and savour the peace. You’ve got this!

Look for support

Remember that you’re not alone – all of us struggle from time to time. Talk to your midwife or GP if you’re finding it all a bit much.

You may be able to form an extended household with one other household, which could be a great source of support for you. You can find out more information on extended households here

There are lot of other ways to find support for your mental health. A directory of third sector services supporting mental health for women, babies and their families can be found here.

It's important to remember you can still access support during this time.

There’s help and advice on the NHS Inform website and here at Parent Club. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website also has advice on keeping safe during pregnancy.