Pregnancy can mean the beginning of a new exciting stage in your life, which can bring many changes and a range of emotions.

It’s important to look after yourself and recognise if you are finding it difficult to manage from day to day — talking about your feelings can be the first step towards feeling better.

It is normal for expectant parents to experience ups and downs.

Pregnancy will bring about big changes in your life, as well as you partner, so communication is even more important to keep your relationship strong.

Pregnancy and change

Pregnancy will change how you live your life. Some changes are well know such as cravings, tiredness, nausea (morning sickness) and body shape. There are also changes, like needing to look at new work arrangements and planning your finances, that can make this a challenging time.

As well as physical, financial and social changes, you might experience emotional changes during pregnancy too. Mixed emotions are a normal and necessary part of getting ready to become a parent.

Mental health challenges can affect you during pregnancy. Talking about your feelings can be the first step towards feeling better.

It’s very important to look after yourself and recognise if you are finding it difficult to manage from day to day. If you have been feeling sad, down, worried or anxious and this is starting to affect your life, you should speak to your loved ones and you midwife or GP.

Feelings, relationships and pregnancy

It can be helpful for both parents to learn about ways to help themselves through this time of change.

  • Helpful ways to prepare include to:
  • read parenting books
  • ask family members and friends about their experiences as new parents
  • think about who might be able to provide support if and when you need it

It can also help to develop a support network with others who are pregnant, or who have children of a similar age.

While planning is important, it is also good to remember that you can’t prepare for everything and unexpected changes are likely to happen.

Pregnancy is an exciting and also challenging time. It is normal for you or your partner to experience ups and downs. For some, anxiety and depression during pregnancy can affect their daily lives.

Look out for these symptoms of anxiety and depression during pregnancy:

  • panic attacks (racing heart, palpitations, shortness of breath)
  • persistent, generalised worry, such as fears for the health or wellbeing of the baby
  • obsessive or compulsive behaviours
  • abrupt mood swings
  • feeling constantly sad, low or crying for no obvious reason
  • being nervous, on edge or panicky

If symptoms last for more than 2 weeks, talk to your midwife or GP.

Pregnancy will bring about big changes to your relationship, especially if this is your first baby. Some people deal with these changes easily, while others find it harder.

It’s quite common for couples to have arguments every now and then during pregnancy. It’s important to realise that during pregnancy there are understandable reasons for the occasional difficulty, as well as reasons for feeling closer and more loving.

Communication can help your relationship during pregnancy. Here are some tips:

Talk to each other about how you feel about being pregnant and what’s to come — the positives and negatives. Try to talk in a way that explains

  • your views rather than blames your partner.
  • Talk about your hopes and dreams for your family and traditions that are important.
  • Talk about how you want to raise your child(ren). If your styles turn out to be different, you might need to work on solving problems together with some give and take along the way.
  • Be open and honest about your sexual needs.

There are also practical ways you can help to manage the impact of pregnancy on your relationship:

  • Go to antenatal classes together.
  • Get some help with managing your money if you’re worried about the cost of having a baby.
  • Talk about how you’ll make time for yourself and time for your partner.
  • Talk about how you’ll share household tasks now and after the baby is born.

Pregnancy is a special time for you and your partner. There may also be other people around you who are excited by your pregnancy, such as your family and friends. People can offer help in all sorts of ways, and you’ll probably be happy to have their support. Sometimes, you may need to put limits on outside help, for example, if it feels as if they’re taking over.

Being pregnant may also mean that family and friends offer a lot of advice and maybe even criticism. There will be times when you appreciate the advice, but also times when the advice is not wanted or helpful.

The important thing is to decide what is right for you. After all, it is your pregnancy and your baby.

If unwanted advice is becoming a problem, explain that there are some decisions that only you and your partner can make, and some things that you prefer to do on your own.

It is important to discuss how you will deal with labour and whether your partner will be there. Many partners want to be present at their baby’s birth, but some don’t for many reasons like; they don’t want to see you in pain or may have a fear of clinical places. It’s important that you decide who will be with you during labour and create a birth plan, including where you can give birth – this will help you to be as prepared as you can be emotionally.

Involve your birth partner in antenatal classes if you can, and let them know what you want from them. It may help to discuss your birth plan with them so that they understand what you think you will want for labour.

Just because you don’t have a partner doesn’t mean you have to go to antenatal visits by yourself and deal with labour on your own. You have the right to take whoever you like: a friend, sister or perhaps your mum.

If you do not have a partner, you can also ask your midwife if there are antenatal classes local to you that are run especially for singles.

Planning ahead

Think about how you’ll manage after the birth. Will there be people around to help and support you? If there’s nobody who can give you support, it might help to discuss your situation with someone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family. You may find the best source of support is other single parents. If you don’t already know people locally, contact other parents through local groups.

Anxiety and pregnancy

If you already have an anxiety disorder, it’s important to seek treatment early in your pregnancy, so that you and your baby receive the right support.

Anxiety during pregnancy can affect either parent.

If you have anxiety during pregancy, you may feel:

  • worried, stressed or on edge most of the time
  • have fears that take over your thinking
  • have panic attacks
  • have tense muscles when you are doing daily tasks
  • have trouble sleeping because of your thoughts or feelings

These symptoms can develop gradually, or may come on suddenly and intensely.

They can get worse over time if they’re not treated.

If you are worried that you might be suffering with anxiety talk to your midwife or GP.

Getting professional help early, when you first notice symptoms, will help you to get the support you need before your baby arrives.

Many pregnant people with anxiety may also have antenatal depression.

If you have antenatal depression, you may experience symptoms such as:

  • low mood
  • feeling hopeless
  • finding it difficult to concentrate
  • difficulty sleeping or eating normally
  • losing interest in activities you previously enjoyed

Mental wellbeing during pregnancy

It’s just as important to look after your mental health and wellbeing during pregnancy as your physical health.

If you are mentally healthy, you will be in the best position to manage the challenges of pregnancy and life with a new baby.

Some expectant parents develop mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety during pregnancy.

If anxiety is affecting your ability to function, or you have a low mood lasting longer than 2 weeks, it’s a good idea to see your doctor or midwife for advice and support.

Getting enough rest, exercising, eating healthy meals and reducing stress will all help you maintain your mental wellbeing during pregnancy.

How can pregnancy affect my mental health and wellbeing?

Preparing to have a baby is an exciting time, but also a challenging one. Don’t be surprised if you experience some emotional change at this time.

It’s normal to have some worries and fears about what’s coming when you’re pregnant. Many people feel quite stressed at this time, particularly when they know it’s a big change that they can’t fully prepare for or control.

In addition, pregnancy itself can be stressful. As well as coping with hormonal and physical changes, you may feel stressed about things such as antenatal tests. You may feel especially worried you’ve had a bad experience before, such as a miscarriage.

Many new parents feel tired or overwhelmed, but postnatal depression is different. In postnatal depression, feelings of sadness, numbness or hopelessness last longer, are more severe and affect your ability to enjoy your daily life. A low mood is also often accompanied by physical symptoms such as trouble sleeping and changes in appetite or eating habits. Postnatal depression can last for a long time, and usually gets worse if it’s not treated.

4 out of 5 new mums experience ‘baby blues’ in the first week or so after having a baby. These feelings are usually due to the hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy and after birth. If you have ‘baby blues’, you may feel moody, anxious, tearful or have difficulty sleeping. Although these feelings can be challenging, they usually pass quickly on their own with no treatment.

In postnatal depression, symptoms last longer than 2 weeks. Unlike ‘baby blues’, postnatal depression doesn’t usually go away on its own. This can be a challenging time to deal with when you are recovering from birth and have a new baby to look after.

It can be hard to know if what you’re feeling is normal or might be the start of something more serious. If you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to check in with your GP.

There are risk factors that increase your chance of developing postnatal depression:

  • a history of depression or mental illness
  • previous pregnancy losses
  • a difficult pregnancy or birth
  • a baby who is unwell or difficult to settle
  • a history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse
  • a lack of social support

Having one or more of these does not mean that you will develop postnatal depression.

Most people know that depression and anxiety can affect women during pregnancy and in the early days following birth, but men can also be at risk. Up to 1 in 10 new dads can experience depression during the pregnancy or after the birth.

Depression in new dads can begin during the pregnancy and increase after the birth.

New dads don’t tend to see their GP, midwife or health visitor, which is where problems are often picked up in women.

As with women, it’s important that depression in dads is recognised and treated as early as possible.

This will help avoid long-term effects on the dads mental health and his relationships with his partner, children, family and friends.

As with all forms of depression, there’s a range of physical, social and emotional factors that can contribute to men developing depression:

  • lack of social and emotional support
  • stress and changes in your relationships
  • lack of sleep
  • loss and grief issues
  • difficulty adjusting to being a dad
  • meeting expectations
  • a negative or traumatic birth experience.

Some men may find that the changes to their home life and family are difficult to deal with. Traditional attitudes towards being a man can mean that men are less likely to talk about how they feel. Worries about extra responsibilities, financial stresses and managing work can also have an effect.

Miscarriage and Infertility

Miscarriage and infertility, despite being common, can be a heart-breaking experience.

Both can have significant impact both mentally and physically, which is not always recognised or understood by family, friends or work colleagues.

Having a miscarriage can lead to a variety of different emotions. It is important to recognise that there is no right or wrong way to feel. While you are recovering from a miscarriage, there are a number of support services available that you and your partner may find helpful.

Different people react differently to having a miscarriage. Some people feel the loss very strongly, while others do not. Some will feel relieved, but may feel guilty about those feelings.

Feelings of grief are very common. Grief can be both a physical and emotional experience.

Other common emotions include sadness, numbness, anger, denial and disappointment.

Many women wonder if something they did caused the miscarriage.

It is important to realise that there is usually nothing that could have been done to prevent the miscarriage and that the cause may never be known.
Your feelings about your miscarriage may change over time. Important dates such as the expected due date or the anniversary of the miscarriage can be upsetting.

Many people who want to have children have always imagined that they would grow up and have a family of their own. Discovering that you can’t get pregnant traditionally can feel like grieving, as you are grieving the loss of the path that you thought your life would take.

It can have an impact on your relationship; leading to arguments, blaming, guilt, sorrow, and so on. If you cannot have a child with your chosen partner – perhaps you are using a sperm donor or a surrogate – this can involve some relationship re-configuring and can take some getting used to.

If you decide to go through fertility treatments, you are simultaneously holding onto two opposing positions – hope and loss. You might go through cycles of falling pregnant, and then miscarrying, in which case these two positions of hope and loss cycle accordingly.

There might need to come a time in your relationship where you decide to stop trying and start living your life again. This might be because of financial reasons or to protect your own mental health or relationship. Perhaps you decide to look into adoption or perhaps you decide to just stop altogether. Typically, couples don’t come to this decision at the same time. Normally one partner arrives at this stage before the other, and it is important to remember to be patient and kind to one another through this process.

When it comes to discovering that you are having difficulty conceiving or carrying a baby to term, it is common to feel betrayed by your own body and to feel a sense of loss of control over your own body.

We spend most of our teens and early twenties trying desperately not to get pregnant because we believe that getting pregnant is just that easy. If we subsequently discover that we can’t get pregnant, it is understandable that we feel out of touch with our own bodies.

Sometimes, when someone discovers that they are infertile, they start to see themselves as the problem. This translates a physical and medical problem into a psychological one – “I mustn’t be entitled to have a child” or “This must be karma.” You might start to question the decisions and choices that you have made in life up until this point – did I wait too long? Did I work too hard? Did I cause myself too much stress? Was I too unhealthy? There can be a lot of self-blame involved in discovering infertility.

Lifestyle and Relationships
When you go through fertility treatments, there is a lot of waiting. Waiting for tests, waiting for results, waiting for treatments, and so on. As a result, your life can seem to come to a standstill.

It feels impossible to book a holiday, move house, change jobs, apply for promotions, and many other things, purely because you might get that call saying you are next in line for treatment or even discover that you are pregnant!

Another factor is that you may feel that your life is on pause while others are moving forward around you. Friends and siblings might be having their own children – might even be on baby number two or three – and this can cause you to feel left behind.

You might experience a level of resentment felt towards friends just because they are able to have children – and then there might be a level of guilt for feeling resentful. You might also withdraw from seeing friends and family members that have young children or are pregnant. This is a way of protecting yourself from feelings of envy, guilt, or resentment.

You may be inclined to lean on your parents throughout the course of infertility treatments, however, they might also be grieving the same losses as you – the loss of a potential grandchild, the loss of the opportunity to be a grandparent. This can make the relationship feel slightly strained. On the other hand, you may withdraw from your parents, especially if they are enjoying being grandparents to your nieces and nephews. Again, this is a way of protecting yourself from the pain of experiencing something that you cannot currently have.

Finally, there might also be a strain between you and your partner. You are likely to both have different ways of coping with the grief of discovering the infertility and the stress of going through fertility treatments. It might be that these coping strategies decrease your personal distress, but increase your relationship stress. It might be that one of you finds peace and solace by going out with friends and doesn’t understand why the other doesn’t do this too.

Another facet of your relationship that could suffer is your sex life. Something that was once an exciting part of your relationship may very well become clinical and mechanical.

What can you do?

Within the relationship, communication is key. It is important to let your partner know how you are feeling and to find out how your partner is feeling. This is very important when you experience the downs of infertility and fertility treatment, but it is also important to celebrate the little wins together; being accepted for treatment, getting a date for treatment, and so on.

Confide in friends and family members what is going on for you. It is much more likely that they will understand why you can’t attend certain events (such as their kid’s birthday party) if they understand what you are going through. It is important that they understand that you aren’t trying to make them feel guilty – you are happy for them and their little family, and you still love them – but it is just difficult for you at the moment.

Gather as much information as you can – talk to doctors and specialists, get a second opinion, if you can afford it then seek private consultations, and talk to others who have been through this before.

Finally, it is important to remember that there is more than one way to have a family, whether it’s through naturally conceiving, fertility treatments, surrogacy, or through adoption or fostering, and many more.

Avoid making comments like:
• “Enjoy this time, trying is the fun part.”
• “Just relax and it will happen.”
• “Everything happens for a reason.”
• “If you have more faith in God, it will happen.”
• “At least you know you can get pregnant (after a miscarriage).”

Instead, offer words of support. If you don’t know what to say to someone, try saying:
• “Infertility is so challenging, do you want to talk about it?”
• “I wish you didn’t have to go through this.”
• “How are you doing? I am always here for you.”
• “I’m so sorry for your loss. I am bringing dinner over.”

Local and National Support

The below link takes you to a support information leaflet for women and families during difficult times. They also supply a wide range of information and guidance.

Counselling provides a safe space for you to seek help and support during difficult times.

We know that the responsibility of parenthood and the daily challenges of this role can be as daunting as they can be exciting.

Light offer group peer support to families struggling from pregnancy to 2 years post-natally.

The Memorial garden at Rotherham hospital is  a place bereaved families can go and remember their little ones in a peaceful environment.

The pregnancy loss helpline is available Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm to provide support and information on miscarriage and pregnancy loss.

This network has been created for you by IVF & fertility experts to support you on this very special path to parenthood. We’re in this together.

With support & guidance the group can help you find the right fertility solution.

Having IVF can be emotionally and physically draining, but help and support is available if you need it.

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