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Emotional wellbeing for parents and carers

  • Parents and Carers
  • Behaviour, emotions and mental health
Mum and dad sitting on sofa laughing and smiling with a happy baby girl sitting on the dad's knee

Being a parent can come with lots of challenges and can have a big effect on your own mental health. It’s completely normal to feel worried, overwhelmed, or low at times and this is nothing to be ashamed of.

If you feel like your mental health is affecting your ability to cope, there is lots of support out there to help you.

If you are planning to have a baby and have or have had a mental health problem in the past, speak to your GP before you become pregnant. You may be referred for extra support. 

Parenting and your mental health

You may experience some symptoms during the early stages of pregnancy. But a lot of these should pass and you will start to feel better. If you are feeling unwell though, this can be a really hard time, emotionally and physically.

It’s normal to have mixed feelings when expecting a baby. You might feel worried about the impact on your relationship with family members. It can also be hard not knowing what to expect and it may feel very overwhelming. These feelings are normal. Remember that you do not need to know everything, and you will learn things as your family grows.

If you are struggling, speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP for support.

After the birth you may feel pressure to be happy and excited. But instead, you may feel sad or disconnected. It can be exhausting trying to juggle your new and old responsibilities. You may also feel like you have lost your identity. 

Having a baby may place strain on your relationships, especially with your partner. It may be harder to spend quality time together and you might start to resent them if you don’t feel supported.  

You might feel worried talking about your feelings in case someone thinks you are a bad parent. But it’s important to remember that this isn’t your fault and all these feelings are completely normal.

Make time to speak to your partner and work together to make each other feel loved. Or speak to a family member or someone you trust. Talk to them openly about how you are feeling. Remember, there is lots of support available.

Fathers and partners can also struggle with their mental health during this time. This is completely normal and more common than you would think. It can be stressful trying to juggle caring for your baby, your partners needs and work.

You may hear lots of information about mums being better and more natural at parenting. This may leave you feeling unimportant or left out. But you and the role you play is just as important.

Download the baby buddy app by best beginnings. This offers lots of helpful information for dads to help you feel confident as a parent.

You can also download the DadPad app. It contains information and advice to help you gain the confidence and skills needed to be the best dad you can be. 

Mental health problems you may experience during pregnancy and after birth

Mum holding baby boy up to her face smiling with her eyes shut.

The effect of your mental health on your child

Children can often pick up on your mood. For example, if you’re feeling stressed, they may be able to tell. Sometimes this can affect their behaviour too, which may then make you feel more stressed. 

Children feel less anxious if they are told the truth. So don’t try to hide your feelings from your child. Try explaining to them in a way that they can understand. For example, you can talk to them about ‘big feelings’. Reassure them that it’s not their job to look after you.

Read more about how parental mental illness affects young people.

Looking after your mental health as a parent

It is important to remember that support is available. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Keep in touch with your friends and family and let them know how you are feeling. There are also lots of thing you can do at home:

  • Try to establish a good daily routine, where you make time for yourself. This may just be having a cup of tea or a soak in the bath.
  • Try to keep regular sleep hours and ensure you are getting enough rest. Read more about sleep problems.
  • Try to regularly engage in gentle exercise, like going for a walk. This can help boost your immune system and encourages your child to exercise. If you can’t get outside, try sitting by a window for some fresh air.
  • Try meditation, mindfulness or deep-breathing.
  • Try to stick to a healthy diet, stop smoking and reduce your alcohol intake.
  • Make a list of small, realistic goals for each day. Don’t try to be super mum or dad.
  • Check what is happening locally so you can meet other parents and feel less isolated.
  • Join online chats or support groups to find others who share your experiences.
  • Watch these mental health videos to help you understand your feelings better.

Last reviewed: 1 November, 2023

Where you can seek support


Who can help

If you have any questions or concerns about your mental health, a health professional in our team will be able to offer advice and support.

You can Call Us on 0300 029 50 50 or Text Us on 07520 649887 to start a conversation.

Open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays).

You can refer yourself to the Psychological Wellbeing Service if you are over the age of 17 and are suffering from mild to moderate depression or anxiety including:

  • generalised anxiety
  • health anxiety
  • panic disorder
  • phobia
  • post-traumatic stress
  • social anxiety
  • obsessive compulsive disorder

You can call 0300 300 0055 or complete an online referral.

For severe or complex mental health needs your health visitor or GP can refer you to the Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service for further assessment and treatment.

If you are in a mental health crisis and need urgent help, call the First Response Service on 111 and select Option 2.

You might be in crisis if:

  • you are thinking of hurting yourself or your baby or suicide seems the only option
  • someone you know has made threats to hurt you or someone else
  • you are experiencing extreme distress that seems overwhelming

Other places you can seek support from

  • Qwell Online Support - access to online peer support, self-help resources, an online magazine and chat-based counselling.
  • Lifeline - a free, confidential and anonymous telephone helpline service that is currently available from 11am – 11pm every day.
  • Mind Cambridgeshire and Peterborough - they offer a range of services for women and men aged over 18 years old across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to support your wellbeing during the perinatal period.
  • Dads Matter Course - an eight week course consisting of 2 hours each week which is both friendly and informal where you can meet new people, build your confidence and keep yourself emotionally healthy.
  • Cambridge OCD Support Group - This group is open to people with OCD and their family, carers, and friends. The group meets on the first Monday of every month from 7pm to 8:30pm. For more information contact: or call 0303 040 1112 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm).
  • Birth Afterthoughts - a free, confidential service for people who have given birth or are planning to give birth. It is a listening and debriefing service. There is a Birth Afterthoughts service at The Rosie Hospital, Cambridge and at North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, Peterborough and Huntingdon.

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