A variety of mental health issues can arise during pregnancy.
Professionals can help by showing it is OK to talk about having difficult emotions during pregnancy, and that help is available.
This section provides details for making a referral to Leeds Mental Wellbeing Service for mild to moderate difficulties, Women’s Counselling and Therapy Service for moderate to severe difficulties and Leeds Perinatal Mental Health Service for severe and complex difficulties.
Anxiety about discussing mental health issues during pregnancy is perhaps the main barrier for professionals to overcome. Expectant mothers may fear that they will be judged as an unfit mother if they speak about their difficulties. If professionals show that it is normal to experience difficult emotions in pregnancy, this can begin a conversation that can make it easier for expectant mothers to access support now or later as needed.
Mental health issues emerging during pregnancy are wide-ranging and include:
- low mood and depression
- difficult feelings about becoming a mother, particularly where someone might have had difficult childhood experiences themselves
- health anxiety relating to the baby or themselves, leading to checking and reassurance-seeking from professionals
- difficulties within couple and family relationships
- anxieties about giving birth, including a fear that the mother or baby will not survive
Many women will experience some anxiety about childbirth, which may be addressed as a part of good quality midwifery and obstetric care. Support from mental health services may be required where this begins to dominate a woman’s pregnancy experience and disrupts the bonding process or engagement with maternity services. Where a woman has experienced past trauma, this may bring complex feelings about childbirth and how to relate to maternity staff.
Where these issues appear to be mild to moderate, women may self-refer to Leeds Mental Wellbeing Service (LMWS – formerly known as IAPT), which offers support and therapies for common mental health problems. Leeds Mental Wellbeing Service welcome referrals of women and partners and main carers in the perinatal period, who will be prioritised to be seen promptly. You can call or email LWMS If you would prefer to discuss your referral.
For moderate to severe issues, the specialist team at Women’s Counselling and Therapy Service provides individual counselling or psychotherapy for up to six months for women in the perinatal period. Women who are psychologically ready for therapy but are experiencing problems such as housing crisis or financial concerns can be referred to the casework service for support before accessing therapy. Referrals and self-referrals can be made via the online referral form. You can call or email Women’s Counselling and Therapy Service if you would prefer to discuss your referral.
For more severe or complex cases, a referral to Leeds Perinatal Mental Health Service can be made by emailing the form. If you are uncertain which service is most appropriate for someone you are working with, you may contact the Perinatal Mental Health Service duty clinician for advice between 9:00am and 5:00pm, Monday to Friday.