Help and emotional support during pregnancy and the first year after having a baby

Having a baby can be joyful, exciting and rewarding.  However, it is also common for pregnant women and new mothers or fathers to experience anxiety, depression or emotional distress. As many as one in five women experience emotional difficulties during pregnancy and in the first year after their baby’s birth. This can happen to anyone.

Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT)

Every London borough has an IAPT service which offers free, confidential talking therapy for people who have symptoms of anxiety or depression. They give priority to pregnant women and new parents. This page explains more about the service and the help we can offer you if you need it.

It is common for pregnant women and new parents to experience:

  • low mood, sadness and tearfulness
  • anxiety, worry and tension
  • irritability and anger
  • difficult or unexpected feelings towards your pregnancy or baby
  • poor sleep even when your baby sleeps well
  • feeling unable to cope or enjoy anything
  • thoughts that you are not a good enough parent
  • worrying thoughts about your baby
  • anxiety about labour or struggling to come to terms with a difficult labour.

Asking for help

It can be difficult to talk about how you are feeling and ask for help. Common reasons for this are:

  • you may not know what is wrong
  • you may feel ashamed that you are not enjoying your baby or coping as you believe you should
  • you may worry that your baby will be taken away.

Struggling emotionally at this time can happen to anyone. It is not your fault.

Asking for help doesn’t mean you can’t cope or are not able to care for your child. It’s the start of getting the right help and support to ensure you can be the parent you want to be. It is very rare for babies to be taken away from parents, so you should not worry about this.

How an IAPT service can help you

IAPT offers short-term talking therapy to give you space to talk.  The types of therapy offered will vary depending on your local IAPT service. These may include guided self-help sessions with a therapist, cognitive behaviour therapy, couples therapy and counselling.

How to contact IAPT

You can refer yourself to IAPT by phoning your local service directly. Contact details for all London services can be found at the end of this leaflet. You may find it hard to contact the service yourself.  In this case, ask your midwife, health visitor, friends or a family member to help you make that first call. Your GP can also make the referral.  We know that pregnancy and the first year of your baby’s birth is a very important time. IAPT will offer you an assessment and treatment as soon as possible.

What to expect when you contact IAPT

When you first telephone you will be asked for some brief details. A time will be arranged for you to speak to one of the therapists. This appointment will be booked as soon as possible, usually within a few days. The first appointment is to find out about your current difficulties. This helps IAPT decide how they can best help you.

At the end of the appointment, they will discuss the support options available and agree a plan.

All IAPT services aim to be flexible. IAPT want to make it as easy as possible for you to get the help you need.  You can often bring your baby to sessions if you want to.  Services usually offer you a choice of locations for your appointment, sometimes in antenatal clinics or children’s centres.

Find your local IAPT service

Borough Telephone Website
Lewisham 020 3049 2000

Greenwich 020 3260 1100
Bexley 020 8303 5816







Always Ask Campaign

An animated film developed as part of a King’s Improvement Science (KIS) project is at the heart of a new campaign launched by Tommy’s charity, King’s College London and the BabyCentre website to empower pregnant women to overcome fears about speaking to professionals about their health concerns.

The film was developed with the help of 34 women who have previously experienced serious complications in pregnancy or birth. Trusting your own instincts in pregnancy is an important theme of the ‘Always ask’ campaign. Pregnancy information often focuses on specific red flag signs and symptoms such as stomach pain or bleeding.

This is why the ‘Always ask’ campaign does not talk about specific symptoms; instead it encourages women to trust their instincts and ‘look out for changes that don’t feel right’. It also gives practical tips on appointments, getting listened to and being taken seriously.

View the ‘Always Ask’ animation.

Further information can also be found on

Perinatal Positivity

Perinatal Positivity uses the real voices of women and men who have had mental wellbeing difficulties around the time of pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. We hope it will help you emotionally prepare and find support at this time. You can view the film here.