Expecting a new baby in the family brings changes and challenges for everyone. Some people adapt easily to new ways of doing things, while others find it harder to cope.
If you’re feeling low or down please do talk to someone. Your GP, midwife or public health nurse (health visitor) are a good starting point. You won’t be telling them anything they haven’t heard before, and they’ll be able to offer you support when you need it throughout your pregnancy and beyond.
If you have suffered or are currently suffering with depression or mental health problems, please do talk to them about this too because you may need extra support once your baby has arrived. Severe mental illness can progress more quickly and be more severe after giving birth. If you see a psychiatric nurse, psychiatrist or psychologist, tell them that you’re pregnant so that they can help you if you need it. They’ll also advise you if you’re on medication.
Changes to your hormones during pregnancy can have a significant effect on your emotions, and many women feel as if they’re on an ’emotional rollercoaster’ during their pregnancy. Your emotional state does affect your baby too.
Your baby is learning new things throughout your pregnancy; even before they’re born they can hear you and will pick up on your feelings. That is why it’s really important for you to be as physically and emotionally well in yourself as you can be.
Your baby’s brain development
Here’s an overview of how and when your baby learns to feel and respond during the pregnancy.
- By 8 weeks:
- Babies respond to touch.
- By 22 weeks:
- Your baby will react to a light shone on your ‘bump’, and will frown, grimace and squint.
- At 23 weeks:
- Your baby is able to hear you. In fact, their hearing is as good as it will ever be. Now your baby can hear your: heart beat, blood flow, voice (although it will sound a bit muffled!), other voices around them such as Dad or partner’s voice, siblings’ voices and those of other close family and friends, and external sounds such as music, TV, conversations, or sudden noise.
- Playing music and singing to your bump helps you to bond with your growing baby and helps them to feel safe and secure. You’ll find that after the birth if you play the same music or sing the same songs, it will help your baby calm and self soothe.
- When you reach 26 weeks:
- The hormones associated with emotions start to cross the placenta. At this point your baby will move its body to the rhythm of your speech and will be able to notice different tastes and sights.
- Around 28 weeks:
- The baby’s brain has developed the ability to think.
Because men also go through complex hormonal changes when they become fathers, making the leap to fatherhood is both an important, yet vulnerable time in a man’s life. The mental health of dads can also have an impact on the baby’s physical and emotional development.
Talking to other dads about their experiences can be really helpful, so it’s worth seeking out local dad’s support groups. There are also some national help lines (see links below).
When you’re happy, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which make you (and therefore your baby) feel calm and relaxed. Have fun with your partner talking and singing to your growing baby – you’re starting to build an emotional bond that will continue once the baby is born.
- The Fatherhood Institute – lots of advice and support for Dads.
- Mind – the mental health charity
- Pregnancy and post birth wellbeing plan from Boots Family Trust
- Guided meditation for pregnancy
- Emotional changes following childbirth
Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust runs the first dedicated perinatal mental health ChatHealth text messaging service- called Mum’s Mind. This confidential service offers advice and information to support mothers during pregnancy and baby’s first year.
The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 4pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a member of the perinatal mental health team within 24 hours. Outside of the working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.
Mum’s Mind: 07507 330 026
The Mum’s Mind service is not a crisis service and does not provide general advice on baby care- this is available through LPT’s original ChatHealth service on 07520 615381 (Leicester city) or 07520 615382 (Leicestershire and Rutland).