COVID-19: Mental health before, during and after pregnancy

Disclaimer: This resource provides information, not advice. Please read the full disclaimer at the end of this resource.

You might be worried about how COVID-19 and the news around it can affect your pregnancy, your baby or your mental health. This resource is for any woman who is planning a pregnancy, is pregnant or has recently had a baby and is worried about her mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s also for their partners, families and friends.

There is no evidence to suggest that you are any more likely to get COVID-19 than anyone else.

Most women who do get COVID-19 will have mild or moderate cold and flu-like symptoms. However, the body responds differently to viruses during pregnancy, which can occasionally cause more severe symptoms. This will be the same for the COVID-19 virus. For this reason, pregnant women are included among a group of vulnerable people identified by the government, who need to take extra care in following social distancing guidelines as a precautionary measure to help stop them becoming unwell.

Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 increases the risk of miscarriage or foetal malformation.

Your appointments might now be held over the phone or by video-call instead of in person. If you are unsure about this, please contact your midwife. If you do attend face-to-face appointments or scans, medical staff will wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gowns, masks, eye protection and gloves, where possible.

In your appointments, your midwife and obstetrician will let you know about any changes to your maternity care, such as how often midwives can visit you after you give birth, or the possibility that your antenatal classes will be delivered by video link.

You must not attend a routine clinic in person if you have COVID-19 symptoms. If you have COVID-19 symptoms when you go into labour or have concerns about your health or the health of your baby, then call your maternity service for advice.

If you have any worries about your physical or mental health or your unborn baby, contact your GP, Early Pregnancy Unit or maternity service. 

The COVID-19 outbreak has meant we are living our lives differently. This can lead to stress because of:

  • less contact with your friends and family
  • fear that you may lose your job or that your partner may lose theirs 
  • not having help with childcare
  • loss of your normal routine
  • worrying information on the news
  • worry that you, your friends or family members may become unwell
  • fear of losing loved ones
  • spending more time with your partner if you have a difficult or abusive relationship.

If you are planning a pregnancy, are pregnant or have a baby during this difficult time, you might be worrying about:

  • whether you should try and conceive
  • whether or not to cancel or postpone fertility treatment
  • changes you have to make to plans for your pregnancy and birth
  • how social distancing will affect your contact with your loved ones.

Anxiety and depression are common in pregnancy. Around one in five (20%) women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth. Talk to your GP, midwife, obstetrician or health visitor if your emotions are very hard to manage, you are feeling a lot worse, or your mood feels like it is out of control.

If you have a fear of childbirth, the COVID-19 outbreak may make you more anxious. Talk to your midwife or mental health professional about your concerns and your birth plan options.

For some people, but not everybody, stress (including stress caused by the COVID-19 outbreak) can trigger a relapse. 

Seek advice, care and treatment for mental health problems or concerns, especially if you have ever had a serious mental illness like bipolar disorder. 

Talk to your GP or mental health team if you are worried. They will help you to plan, so that you can stay as well as possible. 

Your GP, midwife and health visitor can give you most, if not all, of the advice, care and treatment that you need. They can also refer you to your local IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) service for talking therapy if you need it, or you can refer yourself. GPs and IAPT services now offer video consultations, so people can still access therapy.

Find out how to contact your mental health service urgently by checking with your care- coordinator or GP, or by searching online for your local crisis contact details, so that if you experience a mental health crisis you can get the help you need as soon as possible.

If you think your mental health is getting worse, talk to your GP or mental health team about seeing a specialist perinatal mental health team. 

Like all healthcare services, community perinatal mental health services have made some changes to how they work, such as having different opening hours or by offering remote appointments in some cases. 

If you have mental health problems or are at risk of a severe postnatal mental illness but are currently well, you should still be referred to the perinatal mental health service. 

If you are already under the care of a perinatal mental health team, you will continue to see them. 

As described above, find out in advance how to contact your local mental health service urgently should you need to.

If you are already with a mental health service, you can follow your crisis plan. The plan should say how to contact your perinatal or general adult mental health service during working hours, and there should be the contact details for an out-of-hours crisis helpline.

If you can’t reach the mental health service or you aren’t under the care of a mental health team, contact:

  • your GP
  • NHS 111, or
  • the 24-hour crisis helpline for your local mental health trust.

If you cannot get through to any of the above services, you may need to go to your local Emergency Department (A&E) if you:

  • have significant suicidal thoughts
  • have thoughts of harming your baby or others
  • have thoughts or experiences that are not usual
  • don’t feel safe at home.

Liaison psychiatry teams usually work in A&E to assess people’s mental health, but many are currently seeing people away from A&E.

If you need more mental health support than your perinatal mental health team can provide:

  • you will be offered care and treatment at home where possible. The Home Treatment Team can offer intensive treatment at home with visits once or twice each day. Staff who visit will wear personal protective equipment (PPE), wherever possible.
  • you can be admitted to a specialist psychiatric mother and baby unit (MBU) or a general adult psychiatric ward if you need a hospital admission. These units have had to make some changes to how they work during the COVID-19 outbreak. Arrangements for visitors have also changed. Your care team will discuss the changes with you if you need to come into hospital.

Yes. National helplines and organisations that support women experiencing domestic abuse are still open and working hard. You can contact them by email, text and live chat support services.

The “Silent Solution” system has been set up to help women who call 999 in an emergency and are afraid of being overheard.

Refuge has support and resources for people experiencing domestic abuse. Note that their website has an ‘Escape/hide website’ button across the top which quickly navigates you away from their site. Women's Aid also offers support.

Having a baby can be an isolating experience at any time. Even if your friends, family or other people close to you can’t visit, it’s beneficial to stay connected with people using phone and video-call, if you can.

There are many organisations offering extra support for women and families during the COVID-19 outbreak, including:

Try to see this as a time when you can really get to know your baby and spend time with your children. Many mother and baby groups are now meeting online. We can still go outside to exercise once a day as a household, and parks are still open, though children’s playgrounds and communal spaces in parks are closed. Social distancing needs to be followed at all times by adults and children. 

Talk to children about COVID-19 in a way that they can understand. They might be worried and anxious, too. If your child has any physical health problems, it’s important that you take them to any medical appointments as usual.

While at home, there are lots of activities you can do with your children to support their development and wellbeing, like:

  • Save the Children – Keeping kids entertained during lockdown 
  • Family Lives – Coping practically and emotionally during the COVID-19 outbreak 
  • Net Mums – 100 activities for a rainy day.

For more information about supporting children’s health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 outbreak:

Disclaimer

This resource provides information, not advice.  

The content in this resource is provided for general information only. It is not intended to, and does not, amount to advice which you should rely on. It is not in any way an alternative to specific advice.  You must therefore obtain the relevant professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action based on the information in this resource.

If you have questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider without delay.  

If you think you are experiencing any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from a doctor or other professional healthcare provider.  

Although we make reasonable efforts to compile accurate information in our resources and to update the information in our resources, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in this resource is accurate, complete or up to date.