COPMI - Children of Parents with a Mental Illness - Keeping families in mind

Now you are pregnant

Pregnancy is a time of excitement and hope for the future - but it can be scary if you haven’t had a chance to think about and plan for the changes ahead.

Pregnant woman reading

Planning ahead

Think about your expectations of birth – are they realistic or based on TV, magazines or your own childhood? Consider talking with your doctor, midwife or friends about what to expect, and then think about what’s right for you as an individual.

Planning ahead can help you avoid stress. It’s reassuring to know you have things in order as best you can predict and a basic knowledge of what’s to come when you’re pregnant.

It’s a good idea to involve your partner or family in the planning process and establish your support network right from the start. This network might be your family and friends, but may also include community support services and/or your GP.

Be aware of all of the people you can rely on if you need help with your mental illness when you’re pregnant and after birth. You will find they are invaluable during stressful times when you need support.

Remember, asking for help is a positive move.

Getting ready for baby

Consider the following to ensure you are as relaxed as you can be before you have your baby.

  • Develop a baby care plan so you can rest assured things will be taken care of if you become unwell.
  • Organise your baby needs well in advance and budget for them. If money is a problem, talk to a social worker or financial counsellor.
  • Visit the hospital where you’ll give birth so you’ll be familiar with the surroundings. You should discuss your condition and treatments honestly with health staff - it’s in the best interests of both you and your baby.
  • Attend antenatal visits and talk to your GP, midwife or community health nurse about the physical and emotional needs of your baby. They will be able to provide you with information sheets about what to expect and be aware of.
  • Read as much as you can, it will help you be prepared!

Your  health

You can expect some hormonal and emotional changes throughout your pregnancy – this is where you’ll find your support network most valuable. You’ll need family and friends you can ring or ask for help if you become upset, exhausted or angry. These are all normal emotions which may arise during the phase of pregnancy. You can always call Lifeline if no one is available on 13 11 14.

Continue to visit your treating psychiatrist or GP to discuss your medication, future breastfeeding and warning signs of your illness. And remember to follow up with then after the birth to let them know how you’re going.

It’s important to be in good physical health whilst pregnant. This will require enough rest (reduce your daily workload if you need to) and healthy food and moderate exercise. Remember to include enjoyable things in your day that are also relaxing – something to make you smile without raising too much a of a sweat.

Alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs (including misuse of prescription drugs) can affect your own physical and mental health and also the health of your unborn baby. This can really hinder your ability to parent effectively.

If you need support to manage cigarettes, alcohol or drugs, there are non-judgemental services available. Call the Family Drug Support line on 1300 368 186. You can do it - your baby deserves it.

A quick checklist

  • Have you got a support network in place?
  • Have you got a baby care plan in place which details people who can care for your baby if you aren’t well?
  • Have you discussed your current medication, treatment and the baby’s future needs with your health care professionals?
  • Do you know where to get help if you feel overwhelmed?

See also



Need to talk to someone?

Are you a parent with depression or anxiety?

Help your family understand. Find out how to discuss mental illness with them.