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Postnatal well-being

Postnatal anxiety is a mental health condition that can impact on a person’s thinking, feeling or mood, may affect the person’s ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis.

How do I know if I have postnatal anxiety?

Physical symptoms of anxiety can include hot flushes, feeling faint, nausea, feeling tight chested, dizzy, difficulties with sleeping and reduced appetite. From a psychological perspective, you may have feelings of dread, racing thoughts, dwelling on negative experiences and this may impact your ability to interact positively with your child.

Postnatal anxiety refers to a range of conditions from General Anxiety Disorder, (GAD), Obsessive Complusive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorders and Phobias. Phobias often include needle phobia, tokophobia, fear of childbirth and social phobias such as agoraphobia.

The impact of maternal postnatal anxiety can impact on your infant’s physical, emotional and social development. Infants may show their anxiety/stress in difficulties with sleeping, eating, excessive crying, gastric upsets, such as reflux, inability to concentrate and may either become hyperactive or withdrawn.

Guidance and helpful information

  • It could be beneficial for you to start making a note how you react when feeling anxious and share this with your health visitor.
  • Getting to know your baby website and app shows health professionals and parents how to respond to a baby in a way that fosters emotional well-being. The app can be personalised by parents for their newborn.
  • Netmums has an online CBT course for postnatal depression (11 weekly sessions). They also have advice on helping yourself here, as well as a list of books to read on the subject.
  • Some other helpful resources on CBT, such as relaxation exercises and worksheets can be found here .
  • Living Life provides practical life skills for coping with anxiety and depression.
  • DadPad can help support dad in understanding anxiety and provide support to mum and child, in terms of promoting the mother and infant relationship.
  • Tommy’s has a team of in-house midwives who offer free support and information for women and their families at any stage of pregnancy and after the birth.

How can we help?

At the antenatal contact, new birth visit, six-to eight week review and your 9-11 month developmental contact your health visitor will complete the Perinatal Maternal Mental Health screening tool to assess your mood.

If low to moderate concerns are highlighted your health visitor can offer ‘listening visits’; support with relaxation and mindfulness.

Should you wish, your health visitor can also refer you to:

  • The community nursery nurse, who can provide additional support with infant baby massage to help promote the mother and infant relationship
  • Your GP for medication or counselling
  • The primary care liason service, who can refer you onto adult mental health services

Your health visitor can also signpost you onto your local children’s centre for outreach support, courses, such as ‘My Baby and Me’ and group and peer support and finally Improved Access to Psychological Therapies, (IAPT), attending groups such as managing stress and anxiety and raising self-esteem.

Following their review of your Perinatal Maternal Mental Health screening, your health visitor will develop an action plan, to support the family, if there are low to moderate concerns.

If you show moderate to high concerns then we may refer you onto the primary care liaison service or your doctor.