Having a baby can be a daunting prospect for anyone and can often turn out to be a time of great challenge and extreme stress for parents. This pressure along with a sense of struggling to navigate the unknown can sometimes become overwhelming. This can often be further compounded for those from the LGBTQ+ community who face additional challenges on a daily basis. If you are feeling that you’re struggling to cope, you are not alone. Mental health problems in the perinatal period for both parents is extremely common. Please don't attempt to struggle on without help.
Before we go any further we’d just like to say that whilst we're using the LGBTQ+ acronym as an umbrella term out of convenience it can sometimes give the impression that we are lumping large groups of people together as a single entity. We would like to assure you that this is not true.
We recognise that you are an individual with a unique identity and a variety of challenges in your life. Some of these might be similar to other LGBTQ+ people and many of them might not. We welcome you here as the unique individual you are and we hope that you will find information, help and support to help you on your journey.
Unfortunately, there are still limitations to what is available locally and nationally to specifically support LGBTQ+ parents who are experiencing perinatal mental health problems. We have tried our best to bring together what is available, and we hope that the information and resources we have here will be helpful to you and that you will use the links to find help and
support at this challenging time.
A Very Serious Bit
We have brought these self-help resources together to help make your first steps easier for you. We hope that you will find these videos and links really helpful. However, please remember that the use of these resources is not intended to be a substitute for a consultation with a healthcare provider/professional and it must not be automatically assumed that Acacia Family Support endorses any or all of the providers and/or services in this list. We recommend that you contact a healthcare professional if you are concerned about your health. Also, please check out the information at the bottom of the page for help if you or your partner are feeling really unwell at the moment.
We want to ensure that these pages are helpful to as many people as possible. If you know of any other services out there, please feel free to make suggestions and/or if you experience any broken links please let us know by using the contact us box.
Q & A
Maternal/paternal mental health problems, or perinatal mental health problems as they're often called, are more common than you think. In fact one in 5 new mums experience them and up to one in 10 new dads and partners. This figure can be increased amongst the LGBTQ+ community due to additional challenges and stressors. These mental health problems can range from anxiety, low mood and depression to more severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and psychosis. Some will have suffered mental health problems before but for others symptoms are new and frightening for the whole family.
Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems during pregnancy and new parenthood, with around 12% of women and 6% of men experiencing depression and 13% women and 6.5% men experiencing anxiety at some point; many will experience both. People who are experiencing depression/anxiety have a number of changes to their mood, their thinking, their behaviour and their bodily functioning which persist for weeks or months and which can lead to major disruption in their lives.
The other mental health problems like panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, postpartum psychosis, exacerbation of eating disorders and tokophobia (fear of giving birth) are less common but still account for up to 8% of all new birthing parents and can also affect their partners. It is important to remember that all of these problems, even the most severe, are usually temporary with the right treatment and support.
The parents who experience perinatal mental health problems cannot control their symptoms on their own. It is not their choice and will require love, patience, understanding and support to get them through this.The symptoms may lead to poor bonding with the baby and difficulties with breastfeeding (which can itself lead to distress, anxiety and low mood).
Good parental mental health is very important for the the development of the baby before and after birth. This makes it really important to recognise the problem quickly, to talk about it, and to get help. This is so important for partners too. If your partner is experiencing maternal mental health problems you have a one in 2 chance of developing your own and you can still develop your own even when your partner doesn't. Having a baby is a highly stressful time, fuelled by sleep deprivation and the huge increase in responsibility that comes with a baby. Nothing quite prepares you for this and when, on top of all this, your partner becomes ill, it puts you at high risk of developing a mood disorder yourself.
The most common symptoms can include persistent feelings of sadness and low mood, poor concentration, feeling unable to cope, loss of interest in sex, tiredness, avoiding contact with people, change in appetite, loss of pleasure in normally enjoyed activities, unable to get out of bed, thoughts of suicide and/or harming self and/or the baby.
Anxiety symptoms can also include feeling persistently afraid, worried, nervous, on edge, detached, panicky. You may also find it hard to learn and apply the new skills and tasks of parenthood and get into an effective routine, start to feel that the family would be better off without you, have frequent worries about the health and welfare of your partner and/or the baby, have persistent, intrusive and frightening thoughts that you or they might harm baby, constantly thinking things like, "I'm a terrible parent/partner" or, "They're going to take my baby away."
You are unlikely to experience all of the symptoms at the same time but if you recognise yourself amongst them please don't ignore it. This Q&A section will help give you some basic advice about what to do and the links on this page offer free services of who can help.
Anybody can get mental health problems when having a baby, at any time of life, irrespective of gender, age, culture or social background. It happens to men as well as women and is really common. It's important to keep in mind that this is not a sign of a 'weak character' or other inadequacy. Many gifted, successful and powerful people have experienced mental health problems in their lives. Additional risk factors include: if a close relative has experienced mental health problems, psychological make up and personality, major life events, physical illnesses, isolation, relationship breakdown, money worries, struggling with gender and/or sexuality.
In addition to the normal worries that many new parents have to deal with, it can feel that your partner has now become a different person to the one you once knew. You may feel emotionally neglected and physically rejected. Your partner may have become irritable, hostile and abusive to you at times. Whatever you try nothing you do seems to be right.
This change in your relationship and family dynamics which will normally include a change in pecking order all adds to the pressure. You're also likely to be experiencing quite a bit of sleep disturbance and changes in your normal routine in the early weeks and months. You may be spending time at work or elsewhere pre-occupied and worrying about how things are at home. On the other hand work might be a welcome refuge from home, so you try and spend more time there. This in itself may give you conflict and guilt over where your loyalties should lie.
You may feel very isolated and alone with these concerns, not knowing who you can talk to about them and whether they're normal. One of the worst fears is often whether you and your partner will ever be able to return to the way you were before, or is this the way it will always be from now on?
There are many types of perinatal mental health problems and most of them include some aspect of depression and/or anxiety. Most of them can affect both parents.
Postpartum Psychosis is a rare but serious and potentially life threatening mental health issue. It takes the form of severe depression or mania or both. For the few birthing parents who experience postpartum psychosis, it occurs in the first 3 months after birth, usually within the first 2 weeks and develops rapidly.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events such as traumatic labour/birth. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks and may experience feelings of isolation, anger, frustration, disappointment, irritability and guilt.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder which causes people to experience obsessive thoughts followed by compulsive behaviours. Obsessions are overwhelming, unwanted thoughts which cause anxiety, disgust or unease and lead to the need to carry out activities/rituals usually repetitively in an attempt to temporarily relieve the distressing feelings of the obsessive thoughts.
Tokophobia is a specific phobia of childbirth ie an overwhelming, debilitating fear of childbirth, which can be so intense that pregnancy and/or childbirth is avoided.
Postnatal Depression (PND) and Anxiety PND is a type of mood disorder which is usually accompanied by increased anxiety. It can range from mild to severe and occur any time from pregnancy up to 2 years following birth. Sometimes anxiety can be the dominant symptom.
Pre/postnatal depression/anxiety (PND) is the most common perinatal mental health problem and accounts for almost two-thirds of all recorded cases of perinatal problems. In addition many cases of PND/anxiety go undiagnosed as parents try to just press on through! PND is a depressive illness which develops in parents before or after childbirth. Anxiety is almost always a component of PND and sometimes the anxiety is the dominant symptom. In some parents it happens fairly suddenly and usually within a few weeks after giving birth. They often describe it as "like a switch has been turned off." In others it develops gradually over a period of weeks and may not be noticed by those around them for quite some time. It can occur at any time in the first year or so and in some parents it can actually start during pregnancy.
Postnatal depression may last for weeks or months and in some it may last into the child's second year if not detected and treated adequately. The symptoms a parent will experience are very much the same as those of depression generally. The important difference with postnatal depression is that there is a new and dependant baby in the mix. Also, postnatal depression develops at a time when parents usually anticipate pleasure and fulfilment in the experience of parenthood and this can add additional pressure to ignore and play the symptoms down and pretend everything is alright.
The good news is that perinatal mental health problems can be treated. Most parents make a full recovery and, as with all health conditions, the sooner they are recognised, and appropriate help is sought, the better.
At the milder end of the scale, measures aimed at giving parents some space to talk about their feelings along with increasing practical and social support are helpful. This can be achieved through enlisting the help of family and friends to relieve some of the practical load or to spend time providing a non-judgemental listening ear and encouragement. It is worth googling your local voluntary organisations and Home-Start as these can play very useful roles in recovery. You can also use the Hearts and Minds locator Map further on this page to search for local groups. Just enter your postcode.
Further on up the scale antidepressants or other medications are often useful and sometimes more specialist psychological help such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). These can usually be arranged through the GP (or local IAPT service) along with more specialist support for those with higher needs.
For the most poorly parents treatment may include referral to the community specialist perinatal team and/or to the Mother and Baby Unit where they can receive more intensive specialist support for themselves and baby. Referrals can be made by your Midwife, Health Visitor or GP.
A usual episode of depression/anxiety will generally resolve within a matter of weeks or months. Recovery rarely follows a smooth path and typically involves ups and downs. The best advice is to take it one day at a time.
More severe mental health problems may vary in duration but the sooner help is sought, and begins, the sooner things will start to improve.
The first thing to say is that this advice may be really challenging for you right now, especially if you are experiencing your own struggles and perinatal mental health problems. Please remember that this advice is not meant to be another way of measuring and judging yourself about whether you're measuring up! This season will pass and it's great you've taken the first step to get a bit more information on how you can help yourself and your partner. Just remember to take it easy on yourself and not to set the bar too high during this difficult time.
The first step is to recognise and acknowledge that your partner is ill right now. Talk to them about it and find out more about postnatal depression and other maternal mental health problems for yourself. Use the links on this website and watch some of the videos of other mums who have been through it. You will find these in the 'Your Stories' section of the main Acacia website. Click here to access it. There are also some fathers' stories at the bottom of the Acacia Dad's page. You can access the dads' stories by clicking here and scrolling down to the bottom of the page. If you are a male parent you may find some of the other resources on the Acacia Dad's pages helpful.
Listen to them and take their worrying thoughts seriously. They may seem trivial and unwarranted to you, but to them they're very serious and real.
Support your partner to seek help. The GP, Midwife and Health Visitor are key people to speak to If they have already sought help then support them in that and involve yourself in the support they are offered.
Try not to judge or criticise. They're probably doing a lot of that themselves right now. Try not to retaliate in kind when they're irritable and snappy with you. This can be really challenging but remind yourself that it isn't the real person behaving like that.
Reassure your partner that you are there for them and that things will improve in time. Show love and affection but try to avoid overly sexual demands. Your partner won't be ready for that for a while yet. Involve yourself as much as you are able with supporting parenting, housework and self-care.
In addition to supporting your partner it's very important that you recognise your own needs and take care of your own health. You are not being selfish in doing this. It will be impossible for you to look after your partner and the baby well if you are struggling yourself.
Ways of supporting your own mental health:
Try to do some regular exercise and relaxation activities â€“ as much as time will allow right now. After all a baby gives you a good reason for a walk around your local park, which will also give you and oyur partner some much needed time to yourselves.
It might sound simple but it's so important to maintain a healthy(ish) diet and eat regularly - don't skip breakfast! Your brain and your body needs energy if you want it to function well and cope with increased stress.
Find someone to confide in about it. A close friend or family member perhaps. If you live in Birmingham, Acacia provides such a service. If you live elsewhere please use the links on this page to access national support services or visit the Hearts and Minds Map to see what's available locally to you.
If you suspect that you may be becoming overly anxious or depressed then it's very important that you seek appropriate advice for yourself sooner rather than later. Speak to your GP. Be totally honest about how you are feeling. You won't be saying anything that they haven't heard before and the sooner you can get some help the sooner you can start the journey back to wellness.
Most importantly don't try to sweep it under the carpet or be tempted to try to fix it yourself by drinking more alcohol or taking other recreational drugs. This will not help the situation in the long term.
Don't put it off any longer to get the ball rolling. You owe it to yourself, your wife/partner, and your new baby to ensure that you're well and at your best right now. If you feel like you are struggling check out what's available.
Birmingham/Solihull Based Support
Birmingham LGBT Services offer a range of services focused on improving the health and wellbeing of individuals including counselling services for people who are experiencing issues with their sexual health, sexuality or gender, providing free counselling to men, women and non-binary people.
Acacia Family Support - If you live in Birmingham and Solihull we offer a range of support services for partners who are experiencing postnatal depression and/or anxiety. If you would like to refer yourself to us please see link below to access our web based referral form. Alternatively if you have more questions please use the contact us form or ring us on 0121 301 5990.
You can download our Perinatal Mental Health Survival Guide for Partners below.
If you live in Birmingham/Solihull and would like to refer yourself to our service please ring us today on 0121 301 5990 or click here to refer yourself to our service using our secure web-based form. We won’t pretend to know everything you’re going through as an LGBTQIA+ person but we can promise you a listening ear with someone who understands the struggles of perinatal mental health problems. Most of our staff and volunteers have been through these problems themselves and are here to hold the light for you in the darkness and help you to find hope and wellness once again.
Cost of living advice for those living in Brum is available by clicking here.
Local Perinatal Support Groups and Services Elsewhere in the Country
If you live outside of Birmingham please click here to go to the Hearts and Minds map of local support groups around the country. All you need to do is put in your postcode and the map will show you what's available locally to you.
Also to view/download our national non birthing partners survival guide please click on the link below.
National LGBTQ+ Focussed Mental Health Support
MindLine Trans+ provides a safe place to talk about your feelings confidentially. We don’t record calls nor ask for any personal details. Our listeners will try understand the multitude of feelings and concerns that may be going on for you. We are here to listen and offer emotional and mental health support for people who identify as Transgender, Agender, Gender Fluid, Non-binary… Click the link or call 0300 330 5468, open every Monday and Friday, 8pm to midnight.
MindOut is a telephone and online based mental health service run by and for lesbians, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer people. We work to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all LGBTQ communities and to make mental health a community concern.
Consortium Members Use the searchable members directory to see what’s available in your area. Consortium is a national specialist infrastructure and membership organisation. We work to strengthen and support LGBT+ groups, organisations and projects so that they can deliver direct services and campaign for individual rights.
NHS Mental health support - advice and guidance from the NHS if you're lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans (LGBTQ+)
Switchboard, the LGBT+ Helpline is a safe space for anyone to discuss anything, including sexuality, gender identity, sexual health and emotional well-being. We support people to explore the right options for themselves. We aspire to a society where all LGBT+ people are informed and empowered.
The LGBT Mummies Tribe. Our sole purpose is to ‘Educate, Share, & Celebrate’ LGBT+ women & people worldwide on the path to motherhood or parenthood. We act as a central source of support & a safe haven, through providing information, guidance & knowledge on the different pathways to parenthood through our website, social channels & support groups.
MIND LGBTQ+ gives information about mental health support for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer or questioning (LGBTIQ+).
Pink Therapy | Gender and Sexual Diversity Therapy in the UK is the UK's largest independent therapy organisation working with gender and sexual diversity clients. As an organisation we aim to promote high quality therapy and training services for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and others who identify as being gender or sexual diversities.
General Universal Mental Health Support Links & Resources
Wellbeing Skills for New Parents This booklet and accompanying Better Mental Health aim to help you navigate the early years as a new co-parent, maintain good mental wellbeing for yourself and support your new family.
Living Life to the Full The most recommended online courses covering low mood, stress and resiliency. Work out why you feel as you do, how to tackle problems, build confidence, get going again, feel happier, stay calm, tackle upsetting thinking and more. Courses are free for individuals.
PANDAS is a community offering peer-to-peer perinatal mental health support for both parents, using telephone, social media and email.
The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) offer support to anyone who is down or in crisis online, over the phone on 0800 58 58 58, or on webchat.
MIND explains postnatal depression and other perinatal mental health problems, including possible causes, treatments and support options. Also has information for friends and family, including support and advice for partners.
Shout 85258 is a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. Shout exists to provide support to anyone, anywhere and at any time who may be experiencing a challenging time with their mental health for whatever reason. Just text SHOUT to 85258. The text is free and anonymous on all major UK networks.
OCD Action provide support and information to anybody affected by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and work to raise awareness of the disorder amongst the public and front-line healthcare workers.
Action on Postpartum Psychosis Guide for Partners The Insider Guide for Partners was created with the help of partners who have been through postpartum psychosis in their partner.
Home-Start UK is a national charity with local branches offering support to families with children under 5 years and who
are experiencing a range of difficulties.
Lilly Mae Foundation If you have experienced the loss of a baby then you might be struggling to process everything that is happening to you right now. We understand that it is more than just processing what has happened, but it is coming to terms with it, accessing support and finding strength. Partners obviously need to grieve too, but may find it difficult for all sorts of reasons. Please get in touch. We're here for you.
Child Bereavement UK helpline: 0800 02 888. We support many parents who are pregnant again after the death of their baby and we know it can bring up a range of feelings from hope, to guilt and fear. It can be helpful for you to talk to someone outside your own family or social group to help you not only cope with your own feelings, but those of others around you too.
Image by Freepik
Self Help & Stuff to Read
How Homophobia Impacted My Mental Health. Lowri shares her story about her experience of pregnancy and how homophobia affected her mental health.Lowri lives in Cardiff with her partner, Laura and son, Iestyn.
NCT Read a variety of useful articles about issues affecting new same sex parents and pregnancy.
Postnatal depression and perinatal mental health explains postnatal depression and other perinatal mental health problems, including possible causes, treatments and support options. Also has information for friends and family, including support and advice for partners.
Self Help Leaflets covering a full range of mental health problems produced by Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.
Mind - Better Mental Health for Dads, Partners and Non-birthing Parents - A really great resource for better mental health for new dads partners & non-birthing parents - please download by clicking red link. This booklet and accompanying Wellbeing Skills aims to help you navigate the early years as a new dad or co-parent, maintain good mental wellbeing for yourself and support your new family.
Wellbeing Skills for New Parents. This booklet and accompanying Better Mental Health aim to help you navigate the early years as a new dad or co-parent, maintain good mental wellbeing for yourself and support your new family.
Action on Postpartum Psychosis Guide for Partners. A postpartum psychosis Insider Guide for Partners created with the help of partners who have been through postpartum psychosis.
Tommy’s - providing support before, during and after pregnancy, including after loss and pregnancy planning for women with mental health illness or previous experience of trauma or loss.
What issues do lesbian co-mothers face in their transition to parenthood? An article by Katherine Walker discussing some of the issues faced by lesbian co-mothers. Please click on the link below to download the article.
Other Support for LGBTQ+ People
LGBT Foundation - Home LGBT Foundation is a Manchester based service which exists to support the needs of the diverse range of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans. We believe in a fair and equal society where all LGBT people can achieve their full potential. #EqualityWins underpins much of what we do and we aim to be; ‘here if you need us.’
Stonewall Help and Advice, information and support for LGBT communities and their allies. Contact Stonewall's Information Service FREEPHONE 0800 0502020 Lines are open 9:30 - 4:30 Monday to Friday. Alternatively, click the link to visit the website to Find LGBT services and community groups that are local to you
Maternity Action Know your rights at work for partners, including same sex partners. It covers rights to time off and pay at the birth and for the first year of your baby’s life along with other information.
Gingerbread Information for LGBTQ+ Single Parents. Some single parents identify as LGBTQ+, including, but not exclusive to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, non-binary, or asexual parents. This page looks at issues that may be of particular relevance to LGBTQ+ single parents or where extra information may be helpful, such as parental responsibility and workplace rights. You may find this helpful in addition to other single parent information.
Please remember that Acacia is not a crisis service and if you are feeling really unwell with your mental health and are concerned you must contact your GP or mental health professional as soon as possible. If you feel like you are suffering a mental health crisis:
For Forward Thinking Birmingham (24 yrs and younger) 0300 300 0099.
If you live in Birmingham and need help?
If you need help or support or have any questions please call.
0121 301 5990
or click here to email us