Parental Mental Health: From Pregnancy through Postpartum 

recumbent mother and baby

In honor of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month in May, Progyny hosted an important conversation that discussed the importance of prioritizing parental mental health. This conversation focused on what to expect throughout the stages of pregnancy and postpartum including how to support expecting partners, adjust to life with a new baby, navigate relationships, and prepare to return-to-work.   

Progyny offers Pregnancy and Postpartum support through our family of benefits. Call Progyny at 888.597.5065 to learn more. 

This webinar featured: 

  • Audrey Schlote, Manager, Pregnancy and Postpartum at Progyny 
  • Alison Hermann, MD and reproductive psychiatrist and Associate Professor in Clinical Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College 
  • Thomas Hays, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, at Columbia University Irving Medical Center 
  • Danna Greenberg, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Babson College 
  • Andrea Ippolito, CEO and Founder at SimpliFed 

Prioritizing Your Mental Health

According to the World Health Organization, about 10% of pregnant people and 13% of those who have just given birth struggle with their mental health. When it comes to being a first-time parent, many will say that it’s one of the most transformational experiences of their lives, but this transformation also comes with substantive changes – biologically, socially, emotionally – that can take a toll on a new parent’s mental health. It’s important to be mindful of changes and take note of your mental and emotional well-being, communicate with your doctors, and ask for help and support from your family and friends.

Unfortunately, depression is the most common complication of pregnancy – more than conditions like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia – and pregnant people are at double the risk of the general population when it comes to developing it.  Mental health risks continue into the postpartum period, so when you are expecting, it’s important to continue to prioritize your own health as well as that of your new baby. There are other stressors a new parent may face too — such as how to feed, getting your baby on a schedule, and planning to return to work. It is normal to experience stress as you navigate this new chapter, but it is important to prioritize your mental health along each step.

Navigating Each Milestone and Transition

While the initial positive pregnancy result can be an extremely exciting time, the first trimester can also bring in a tide of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. For the carrying parent, the first trimester can come with both physical and psychological symptoms. The first trimester can also be an isolating period as most people choose to not share their news until later, so during this time, you should work closely with not just your care team, but also lean on your support networks.

While you may be navigating how you share the news with family and friends you may also have to plan to share the news with your manager. Disclosure to colleagues and managers is an important step as you plan ahead for leave. Generally, it’s recommended to wait until the end of your first trimester, but if you’re not feeling well, you may find you need accommodations earlier. At this stage of your pregnancy, learn more about your workplace’s policies around pregnancy and parental leave. When it comes to disclosure, remember that you will want it to be a part of continued conversations you’ll have throughout your pregnancy.

As you are getting ready to give birth, there are steps you can take to feel more prepared:   

  • Make a plan: Making a birthing and feeding plan can help take away some of the stressors that can come up in the moments of chaos. A birthing plan will include your preferences for labor and delivery, while a feeding plan will include how you are planning to feed your baby, whether its chest feeding, with formula, or a combination of the two. Although a plan may not work out perfectly, it is helpful to have a broad understanding in place. This planning can also include childcare if needed on your road to returning to work.
  • Educate yourself: It is important to educate yourself on the different experiences you can encounter during pregnancy as well as becoming a new parent, or adding a new baby to your family. Education is power and the more you know about your different options, the more in control you will feel. When control increases, levels of stress will decrease. There are many different resources that can help you educate yourself including exploring classes through your hospital or resources from your OB/GYN and later, from a pediatrician or PCP.
  • Communicate what you need: Whether you are feeling unwell during your pregnancy, or having added stress closer to giving birth, it is important to communicate what you need. Your doctor, your manager, and the support system you have in place will not know what you need unless you tell them. If you need flexibility in your work schedule, or need to begin leave a little early, these are conversations to have with a manager if you are comfortable, or with your human resources department so they can support you the best they can. This also translates into conversations with your OB/GYN or pediatrician. If there are additional feelings of anxiety or depression during these periods, it’s important to communicate that so your care team can figure out the best next steps.
  • Consider return to work: If you choose to return to work, this can be a challenging time for many. It’s normal to feel anxious and stressed about leaving your child with another caretaker and worrying whether you’ll be able to handle integrating your childcare responsibilities with your workplace responsibilities. If you can, stagger leave with your partner so you can stay home with your child for longer. You can also discuss setting up practice runs for returning to work with your manager so that it helps you get into the schedule of taking care of children while also working again. It’s important to have this plan in place, and possibly start to utilize your childcare plan prior to your first day of returning to work. Communicate with your manager and HR department to understand what resources are available to support your transition. 

Although welcoming a new baby is an extremely exciting time for parents, there will also be moments where you feel scared, exhausted, and overwhelmed. This is normal! Don’t be afraid to ask for help, it is alright to not be able to do it all alone.

Finding Support

There are many resources for pregnant and postpartum people. A great place to start is with the medical professionals you already have a relationship with – whether this be your OB/GYN or pediatrician – who likely have lists of resources in their network. If you feel comfortable talking to people in your personal life about issues you’re experiencing, reach out. It’s likely that someone you know has dealt with (or knows someone who has dealt with) the issues you’re currently facing. You can also turn to resources from your community, whether that’s your hospital or local parenting groups. It’s important to know that you have a wealth of resources around you when going through this journey.

There’s also a wealth of helpful resources online. Post-Partum Support International is a great site that shares community resources and support groups.

If you’re a birthing parent and know that you have a family history of pregnancy-related conditions like postpartum depression, be proactive in bringing it up to your doctor. Prioritize your mental health, and know that you can lean on OB/GYNs and pediatricians as a resource for not just your physical well-being but also your emotional.

Regardless of the stage of the journey you are in, there is support available. If you have access to Progyny’s Pregnancy and Postpartum benefit through your employer, contact your Pregnancy and Postpartum Coach at 888.597.5065 to ask any questions, they are always there to listen and provide guidance. 


  • I’ve had terrible morning sickness and I am extremely stressed trying to continue on with my day. How do I deal with this and get through this hard period of time?
    There’s a huge range in terms of morning sickness. Morning sickness is nausea during the pregnancy that usually happens in the first trimester, but despite the name, it doesn’t always happen during the morning. It’s normal for people to experience some level of discomfort in their first trimester, but for some people it can be extremely difficult.

    Start a log of details about the symptoms you’re experiencing and when, to help you determine if there is a pattern behind when you feel worse or better. If your symptoms are on the more severe end of the spectrum, speak with your doctor to learn how you can find relief. Also, don’t hesitate to tap into your support systems, whether they be your family, friends, or coworkers. Ask for the accommodations and help that you need, including at work. 
  • How can I assist and be supportive of my partner as they go through all of this?
    Historically, we’ve had divided social roles in dual-parent households of breadwinners and caregivers; however, we now know that the best way to support your partner as a non-birthing parent is to be an active co-parent. Rather than dividing caregiving responsibilities by traditional gender roles, they should be shared, and each parent should have ample individual time with your newborn to build confidence.

    One of our panelists, Andrea, recently had her third child and gave some very helpful tips on how to navigate this time with your partner. After every child, its okay to redesign what postpartum looks like for you and your partner. With her third child, Andrea decided to commit to fully breastfeeding so needed to lean on her partner more. She was able to sit down and communicate that she needed more from him – needed him to put the kids to bed, clean the bottles and pumps, empty the dishwasher, and do other helpful chores around the house. During this time it is important to have these conversations with your support system on what they can help you with. 
  • I am in the middle of my pregnancy and already stressing about finding the right pediatrician. Do you have any recommendations to ease that anxiety? 
    It can be really easy to overthink the process of finding a right pediatrician, but don’t be afraid to trust your gut. Schedule an initial visit and have a conversation to make sure you feel comfortable. You can also utilize your community and ask for recommendations.

    When it comes to practical considerations, your pediatrician should be nearby and accessible. Understand what support and care they provide out of normal hours, what hospital they are affiliated with, other factors that might be important to you.

Progyny is always here to support you, and you can access additional resources on our website at If you have access to Progyny’s pregnancy and postpartum benefit, contact Progyny through your organization specific phone number to learn more and connect with a Pregnancy and Postpartum Coach.

Additional Resources

Articles: Check out the following resources in our Progyny Resource Hub that can help you navigate questions in your pregnancy and postpartum journey