How we support maternal mental health

One in every five questions we receive through our Drugs in Breastmilk service is related to treatments for mental health issues and there has been a significant rise in these questions over the last few years.

Despite all the work that has been done we still speak to many mums who are worried that they will need to stop breastfeeding before they want to or who are considering delaying starting important medication because they cannot find useful information about medication and breastfeeding with all the risks this entails for mums, babies and families.

We are delighted to see the Royal College of General Practitioners toolkit for perinatal mental health mentions the Breastfeeding Network and our Drugs in Breastmilk service and hopefully this will mean that more healthcare professionals have access to evidence based information about medications and breastfeeding so that fewer mums are forced to decide between starting vital medication and breastfeeding.

There are also great resources on the GP Infant Feeding Network website including information about maternal mental health and about medications and breastfeeding.

We offer detailed information sheets about breastfeeding and treatments for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and OCD, which can be downloaded from our website by parents and health professionals. Our sheet on depression receives around 2500 views per month, showing the need for this type of easily accessible information to empower women and give them the information they need make have discussions with their healthcare provider.

Our factsheets are all available here.

More information about maternal/perinatal mental health

It is estimated that more than 1 in 10 women will develop a perinatal mental health issue. Perinatal mental health refers to any mental illness that occurs from during pregnancy and for the first year after birth. There are several different types of mental illness that can affect mothers, often the first one people think of is postnatal depression, but perinatal mental illness also includes antenatal depression, maternal OCD, postpartum psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder. These illnesses can be mild, moderate or severe and can require a whole range of support, care and treatment. We have a specific page on our website about maternal mental health, breastfeeding and medication.

You can also find out more about maternal/perinatal mental health on these websites

Exercise and mental health

One of the reasons we included a virtual run in our Big Tea Break plans this year is because there is lots of evidence that physical exercise is beneficial for both physical and mental health. Exercise can help reduce anxiety and depression, improve sleep and reduce feelings of stress. It can also help you meet new people, feel better about yourself and, very importantly, have fun!

You can find out more about the impact of physical activity on mental health here:

If you would like to support our Drugs in Breastmilk information service but you aren’t able to organise a BfN Big Tea Break why not become a Friend of our Drugs in Breastmilk information service  and support the service all year round! Find out more here.