Having a baby is a major life event and can trigger a range of emotions and reactions during pregnancy and following the birth. Many women feel low in mood, tearful and anxious in the first week after giving birth. This is referred to as ‘the baby blues’ and is quite normal. However, if parents experience symptoms that last longer than a couple of weeks following the birth of their baby or start later usually within the first year after the baby is born then this may be postnatal depression.
Around one in five women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth, and one in ten men will experience depression in the first year after their child is born. Antenatal depression/anxiety and postnatal depression/anxiety are not the same as ‘the baby blues’. They do require treatment and are known as Perinatal Mental Health issues. Peri meaning ‘around’ and natal meaning ‘birth’. Some women may also experience Postnatal Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Postnatal Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and in extreme cases Postnatal Psychosis.
How they might feel
- Persistent feeling of sadness and low mood.
- Feeling worried about when the baby arrives and thinking you won’t be a good parent.
- Experiencing negative feelings, thoughts and memories about your own upbringing and childhood.
- Not feeling a bond to your unborn baby.
- Not feeling happy or excited about the pregnancy or prospect of having a baby.
- Feeling anxious about something being wrong with your baby or happening to your baby while pregnant.
- Lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world.
- Lack of energy and feeling tired all the time.
- Trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day.
- Frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby or something happening to your baby.
- A feeling that something bad is going to happen.
Things you might observe
- They may withdraw from contact with other people.
- They may have problems concentrating and making decisions.
- They may be constant worrying and not being able to relax.
- They may seem excessively anxious about their baby’s safety, health or routine.
- They may appear more irritable than usual.
- May have weight loss or weight gain.
- Not eating enough or over-eating.
- They have signs and symptoms of postnatal PTSD.
- They may have obsessions and compulsions associated with postnatal OCD.
Watch this video from a new father who experienced feelings of depression and struggled to bond with his new baby. It is important to remember that post-natal depression doesn’t just affect mothers and this case study provides a male perspective on this issue.
If a student requires support but is not at immediate risk:
- Reassure the student that it is common to feel this way after having a baby (including male students who have become a dad recently).
- Ask the student if they are registered with a GP. If they are not, the Wellbeing webpages have information on registering with a local GP. If they are, recommend that the student makes an appointment.
- Recommend the student contacts their GP and Midwife (if pregnant) or health visitor (if the baby is born) to discuss how they are feeling – offer to support them with doing this if they would find this helpful.
- If the student is worried about this appointment reassure them that this appointment will not involve any treatment and is simply to arrange further antenatal appointments including scans and to provide the midwife with family medical history to help them determine what type of care the student will require during their pregnancy.
- Identify what practical support could be considered to support the student with their studies while they are trying to manage with a pregnancy or recent birth in addition to their course.
- Encourage parents to socialise with other students as feeling isolated can make parents with new babies feel very low.
- Ensure the student is aware there are breastfeeding facilities on campus, with facilities for storing milk.
- If the student has discovered they are pregnant during their course, ensure they have information on what they may need to do about their course by seeking advice through the Wellbeing self-help pages: advice for pregnant students.
- If the student requires referral for specific issues, for example, they are struggling with money worries, have an accommodation issue or their issues are complex, then consider the routes in the ‘How to Refer’ section. Seek the student’s consent to refer and explain that they can also self-refer to Student Services.
- Be mindful that pregnant students might be eligible for reasonable adjustments by law, or students suffering with perinatal mental health may be considered to have a disability. If you believe this might be the case then contact the Inclusion team for advice and guidance on 01695 657568 (extension 7568) as to how you should implement them.
If you are unsure of how to support a student or concerned that a student might be at risk, contact the Wellbeing team on 01695 650988 (extension 7265) for advice.
- Don’t dismiss the student’s feelings of anxiety or depression. Things to avoid saying: “you’re probably just tired because you’ve got a new baby”, “men don’t get postnatal depression”, “it’s probably just the baby blues”.
- Don’t say things that make the student feel it is their fault such as “maybe you’re not cut out for having children”, “I had a difficult birth too but I had to just get on with it”.
- Don’t assume that having perinatal mental health means that the mother wants to hurt their baby. However, if you are concerned, visit the ‘how to refer’ section.
Refer a student if:
- You feel you can no longer provide practical advice or support to the student.
- You feel the student requires more specialist support.
- You feel the student is at immediate risk to themselves or others.
- You have safeguarding concerns for the baby or other children.
If you believe the student is an imminent risk to themselves or others, ideally do not let them leave your office or teaching room. Contact the Catalyst Helpdesk on 01695 650800 (extension 7800) and ask them to put you through to the Duty Wellbeing Adviser in Student Services. If it is out of hours, contact Campus Support on extension 01695 584227(extension 4227).
Your designated Safeguarding Officer can be found on the Edge Hill Safeguarding webpages.
If a student is an immediate risk to themselves, you do not need the consent of the student to contact Student Services.
If a student is not at immediate risk to themselves but requires specialist support, you must obtain their consent to refer them to any of the following services as appropriate:
|Team Name||Support Offered||Contact Details|
|Academic Registry||Provide advice on and processing of course changes: transferring course/university, repeating a year, module changes, changing mode of study, appeals.||[email protected]|
|Accommodation team||Provide advice/guidance about accommodation both on and off campus, including hall fee queries.||[email protected]|
|Campus Life||Ensure that students live in a safe/secure environment on campus. Promote and organise events to help students make the most of their time here and administrate the Disciplinary Regulations.||[email protected]|
|Campus Support||Provides 24/7 support and security on campus.||01695 584227|
|Careers||Provide advice and support with career planning, job hunting, CV writing, volunteering and maximising work experience||[email protected]|
|Chaplaincy||Provides both staff and students of all faiths and none with pastoral support. Activities/events focus on friendship, community, support and faith.||[email protected]|
|Counselling (assessed through the Wellbeing team)||Referral always via the Wellbeing team. Also provide group workshops and 1:1 therapeutic support to help students find solutions to issues they are facing.||[email protected]|
|Disability and Inclusion||Provide advice and support for students with physical/sensory/mental health, autism spectrum disorders or other additional needs. Also provide advice and guidance on reasonable adjustments and support available. Support for specific learning needs – including dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD can be found via the Library and Learning Services SpLD team.||[email protected]|
|Law clinic||Provide a free clinic to all staff and students run by Year 3 Law students who can advise on legal questions or difficulties such as support with housing contract and employment law for example.||Law Clinic|
|Money Advice||Provide advice on all money-related matters including student funding, budgeting, and the Student Support Fund.||[email protected]|
|Students’ Union||Provides representation for students and promotes and hosts activities/events. Provides advice and support to students on various issues including academic, housing, and money.||[email protected]|
|Transitions team||Targeted support for care leavers (or care experienced) and estranged students.|
Advice and support for all students who are thinking of leaving or at risk of withdrawing or being withdrawn.
|Wellbeing team||First contact for mental health concerns. Practical advice, support and signposting for any issue impacting on a student’s wellbeing.||[email protected]|
Students can self-refer to all of the above services and arrange appointments via the Catalyst Helpdesk.
Useful links and information
For more information about perinatal mental health, follow the links below.
- NHS guide to postnatal depression
- PANDAS Foundation
- NCT postnatal depression information
- The 1001 critical days
Support and self-help resources for students
There are a range of self-help resources available for students including self-help apps, NHS screening tools and wellbeing activities students can do. Please see below for more information.
- Student Services Wellbeing team – self-help
- NHS ‘One You’ self-help apps
- NHS Self-Help Guides
- NHS Choices depression screening tool
- Find a psychological therapies service (NHS website)
Staff e-learning resources
If you would like to learn more about perinatal mental health the following link has useful online learning for professionals.
The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust provides information about suicide and online learning around understanding suicide within the higher education context. It also provides various online training modules for how to support students in crisis or those at risk of suicide.
Staff training at Edge Hill University
The Mental Health Awareness Workshop is a new workshop designed to support staff to support students with their mental health. The workshop is a practical session and encourages staff to consider helpful ways to talk to students when they have an issue, to consider appropriate and professional boundaries, and provides the opportunity to discuss real case studies in order to better understand how and when to refer students for support. Other sessions that may be useful are Professional Boundaries, Introduction to Resilience, Unconscious Bias, and Mindfulness training. To book a place on any of these sessions please follow the link.