Pregnancy and mental health

Pregnancy brings a huge amount of change to your body, identity, relationships and emotions. It’s natural to find some of these changes challenging. During pregnancy, it's as important to look after your mental health as it is to take care of your body.
Illustration of pregnant woman talking to her friend holding a child

Finding out you’re pregnant

Emotions during pregnancy

Hormonal changes along with your personal circumstances can make for an emotional time during pregnancy. 

You might feel fluctuations in mood from elation and excitement to sadness, irritability or anxiety. Be kind to yourself. In most cases, these feelings will pass as your pregnancy progresses.

Learn about managing pregnancy emotions and mood swings on the ForWhen website

Looking after yourself during pregnancy

Self-care is an important aspect of pregnancy. It’s not always easy to look after your mental health and wellbeing during pregnancy.  

The key is to find strategies that feel right and achievable for you.  

Find self-care strategies for new and expecting parents on the PANDA website

Look after yourself during pregnancy with tips from the Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE) website.

Your relationship

If you have a partner, this is the start of a new type of relationship with them – a parenting partnership.

The thing that catches many new parents by surprise is changes in their relationship with their partner.

It’s important to take the time before the baby arrives to:
  • share your expectations of parenthood 
  • agree on some principles for working together 
  • communicate in positive ways.  
This can strengthen your relationship.

Talking and listening well can help you and your partner connect, resolve issues and grow together into your new phase of life.

Discover pregnancy information for partners on the Raising Children website.

Find support for expectant dads on the PANDA website.

Relationship conflict 

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, it can be hard to figure things out from inside your relationship.  

You could seek help by speaking to your GP to get a referral to a professional counselling service or confiding in a trusted family member or friend. 

You could also contact a relationships helpline service, such as Family Relationships Online, Relationships Australia or MensLine Australia

A harmful relationship with a partner can be difficult to cope with on your own. For domestic abuse counselling call 1800RESPECT or speak to your health practitioner. In an emergency, call 000.

Cultural practices during pregnancy and birth

Illustration of woman thinking about holding her baby

Traditional, religious or cultural practices during pregnancy and birth are important to many people.  

Often, hospitals provide birth services to support First Nations Peoples and multicultural communities. This includes access to interpreters. 

Local health services, health workers and community groups also offer services to support culture during pregnancy and birth.  

Find out more about cultural practices and pregnancy on the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby website

Visit the Gidget Foundation website to find information about pregnancy care for First Nations expectant parents.

What can affect your mental health during pregnancy

We can’t prepare for everything when it comes to pregnancy and birth.  

When you’re pregnant and facing adversity, it’s important to reach out to trusted family and friends, your community and social supports.  

This can help you make sense of what’s happening, get support and heal.

Giving birth is different for everyone. Things often don’t go to plan.

Some of the things that can impact on your mental health include complications during pregnancy. For example, gestational diabetes or severe vomiting.

Other unexpected events can also affect your wellbeing. This includes a pregnancy and birth that involves more medical intervention, more pain or time than expected or in which you didn’t feel heard.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions from your healthcare team so you can understand how your pregnancy is progressing.

Visit the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby website to:

Teenage pregnancy 

A pregnant teenager will need to make decisions about their education, work and financial support while they’re still growing and developing themselves.  

They’ll also experience thoughts and feelings about how their pregnancy will impact their relationships and their future.  

Pregnant teens need extra support to maintain their health and wellbeing.  

Learn about mentoring support for pregnant young people and young parents by the Brave Foundation

Find out about financial support for teen parents on the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby website

Financial stress 

Having a baby will impact your finances. In addition to the new set of expenses, most families experience a dip in household income. 

Often, factors including stigma, shame and social relationships can get in the way of speaking about and addressing financial challenges.  

For free, national phone financial counselling if you're having financial difficulties, you can call the National Debt Helpline.  

Learn more about financial wellbeing and mental health

Work and stress 

You might find that having a family puts work into perspective now you’ve got another human on the way.  

At the same time, the pressure of providing for your family can make work seem even more important. 

This juggling act, and the expectations and demands from each side, can impact on your mental health.  

Learn about your rights at work around flexible working arrangements on the Fair Work Ombudsman website

Get tips on managing work, stress and mental health

Pregnancy loss 

Pregnancy loss at any stage can cause emotions such as numbness, anger, disbelief and guilt.  

The grief from pregnancy loss is often underestimated. Counselling and support services can help with recovery.  

If you’ve lost a baby, your hospital can provide you with a list of support services. 

Find bereavement support after pregnancy loss on the SANDS website

Find articles and videos about coping after losing a pregnancy or having a stillbirth on the Raising Children Network website

Understand more about miscarriage at the Gidget Foundation.

Antenatal depression and anxiety

Signs and symptoms of antenatal depression

Antenatal depression is depression during pregnancy. It affects up to one in 10 women in Australia.

Some common symptoms include:
  • low mood or feeling numb
  • feeling hopeless, helpless, empty or sad 
  • feelings of worthlessness 
  • feeling unmotivated and unable to cope with a daily routine
  • often feeling close to tears 
  • being angry, irritable or resentful 
  • not being able to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping a lot 
  • having nightmares 
  • changes to appetite (not eating or over-eating) 
  • loss of interest in things that you would normally enjoy 
  • recurring negative thoughts 
  • withdrawing from social contact 
  • having thoughts about wanting to escape or get away from everything. 
Find out more about depression symptoms on the PANDA website.

Signs and symptoms of antenatal anxiety

We all feel anxious sometimes.

During pregnancy you might already be feeling a bit more anxious than usual. It can be hard to know how much is ‘too much’.

If you’re experiencing an anxiety condition, you might find it difficult to get feelings of anxiety or nervousness under control.

Some signs to look for include:
  • anxiety or fear that interrupts your thoughts and interferes with daily tasks 
  • panic attacks (outbursts of extreme fear and panic that are overwhelming and feel difficult to bring under control) 
  • anxiety and worries that keep coming into your mind and are difficult to stop or control 
  • constantly feeling irritable, restless or on edge 
  • having tense muscles, a tight chest and heart palpitations 
  • having tense muscles, a tight chest and heart palpitations 
  • Taking a long time to fall asleep at night.
Find out more about anxiety symptoms on the PANDA website.

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing can help you enjoy your pregnancy and care for your newborn. 

If you’re unsettled or struggling with your mental health during pregnancy, seek support early. 

You can talk to family, friends or a healthcare professional. 

Take the anxiety and depression (K10) test

Learn more about looking after your mental health and wellbeing

Get mental health support

Supporting someone who’s pregnant

Some pregnant people may not realise they’re unsettled or struggling. Others may recognise how they’re feeling, but not know how to talk to anyone about it. 

You can offer emotional support and practical help.

​Find tips on how to talk to someone you're worried about.

Tips for partners

Remember that you are a support person, not a health professional. You don’t have to know everything or provide advice.
  • Spend time listening, without feeling the need to offer solutions. 
  • Let your partner know how well they’re doing and support their self-care strategies. 
  • Encourage your partner to see a health professional if you’re concerned about them.  
  • Take time out and look after yourself too.  
Visit the Centre for Perinatal Excellence (COPE) website to find more tips on how to support your partner.

Tips for family and friends

Remember that you are a support person, not a health professional. You don’t have to know everything or provide advice. 
  • Be available to talk, in person, over the phone or online. 
  • Make a meal or offer to help with grocery shopping, chores or housework. 
  • Offer to help look after, drop off or pick up older children 
  • Be aware that the expectant person might need time and space to deal with symptoms such as morning sickness or fatigue.

Further resources

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