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Postpartum mental health

Due to an increase in Google searches for postpartum mental health during the pandemic, Glenys Jackson, Bupa's Clinical Lead for Mental Health, shares her advice to new parents.

Becoming a parent is life-changing, and you experience every emotion – the highs, lows, and everything in-between.

New parents during the COVID pandemic may experience a lack of support, isolation, and worries about their baby’s health. All of these contribute to poor mental health in new parents.

An analysis into new parents’ searching habits by Bupa UK Insurance found a sharp rise in searches for postpartum mental health conditions over a 12-month period:

Source: data provided by Google from December 2020 to November 2021. Based on an internal Bupa analysis of Google search data.

Postpartum mental health: Warning signs to watch out for

It’s very common to feel overwhelmed, tearful and low for a few days after your baby is born, which is known as the ‘baby blues’. These feelings are often over within two weeks. However, postpartum mental health conditions, after you’ve had your new arrival, are more serious than these early feelings – and both mums and dads can be affected. Warning signs of postpartum mental health problems include:

  1. a persistent low mood.
  2. feeling tired (as do all new parents), but completely lacking in energy.
  3. losing your appetite or comfort-eating.
  4. problems concentrating.
  5. not wanting to see your friends and family.
  6. problems sleeping (again, like all new parents), but you may lie awake worrying or wake early.

It’s common for people to dismiss their feelings or hide them through fear of being judged and labelled a bad parent by others. However, it’s important to recognise these feelings and understand there is always support available.

Rise in postpartum mental health conditions

Postpartum mental health conditions

  • Postpartum anxiety

  • Postpartum depression

  • Postpartum OCD

  • Postnatal psychosis

  • Postnatal PTSD


Postpartum anxiety

It’s natural to worry after the birth of your little one, but sometimes it’s something more. If you’re experiencing intense feelings of worry, dread, or racing thoughts, you may have postpartum anxiety.

Postpartum anxiety may increase as a response to real stressors – whether it’s the health of the new baby, finances, or balancing a new dynamic in the relationship with your partner.


Postpartum depression

At a time when everyone expects you to be feeling happy, you may be feeling very low. You may find it hard or even impossible to get into a routine or cope with your new baby, as well as feel detached and unable to bond with them. All of these are warning signs of postpartum depression.


Postpartum OCD

Symptoms of postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder include intrusive thoughts (upsetting, frightening and repetitive thoughts related to your new baby), fear of being left alone and compulsions such as cleaning constantly.


Postnatal psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a serious but rare mental health problem which develops after you give birth. It can be both overwhelming and frightening, so it’s important to find the right support.

When experiencing postpartum psychosis, you may have rapid mood changes, feel disorientated, and unable to sleep. You might also experience delusions or hallucinations.


Postnatal PTSD

You may experience postnatal PTSD after a difficult or traumatic labour, which can have a negative effect on both your mental health and relationship with your new baby. You may suffer from flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and intense distress. Your experiences may also make you feel anxious about having another baby in future.

Postpartum health: How to support your partner

The postpartum period after birth affects the whole family, so it’s important to understand how to support your partner during this difficult time.

  1. Take the time to reassure your partner that it isn’t their fault if they’re experiencing mental health conditions, and they’re not alone.
  2. Listen without judgement and encourage your partner to open-up at their own pace.
  3. Help them reach out to others for support and treatment, whether this is through friends who have had children, family, or their doctor.
  4. Offer practical support, such as doing the housework and making meals for the both of you.

It’s common for people to dismiss their feelings or hide them through fear of being judged and labelled a bad parent by others . However, it’s important to recognise these feelings and understand there is always support available.

Support when you need it

Mental health support for new parents from Bupa’s experts

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