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Illustration of a pregnant woman talking with a healthcare provider in a soothing, plant-filled setting, highlighting World Maternal Mental Health Awareness week by London Pregnancy Clinic.

Maternal Mental Health Awareness

Discover the importance of Maternal Mental Health in 2024.

2. May 2024
Last Modified
2. May 2024

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week casts a spotlight on the crucial mental health challenges mothers encounter both during and after pregnancy. This post delves into these issues, offering strategies for personal care and emphasising employer support for the well-being of returning mothers.

Maternal mental health often gets overlooked, with the focus shifting to physical health and newborn care. However, the mental well-being of mothers is just as critical and warrants equal attention and support. In many countries, around 1 in 5 new mothers experience a mood or anxiety disorder that goes unnoticed and untreated due to lack of awareness and stigma. This Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re exploring significant mental health challenges during pregnancy, after childbirth, and the transition back to work, providing insights and solutions to support mothers in these crucial times.

Urgent Support

If you find yourself in crisis, feeling despair, or experiencing suicidal thoughts, it’s crucial to seek help immediately. Reach out to a healthcare professional—this could be your GP, midwife, or health visitor.

Alternatively, you can take the following steps:

Remember, you are not alone. Mental health issues during and after pregnancy are common, and support is readily available.

What is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week?

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual campaign aimed at raising both public and corporate awareness about the mental health challenges mothers face. It calls for improved care and support for women tackling mental health challenges from the prenatal period through to postpartum and beyond. This week underlines the importance of understanding, recognising, and addressing maternal mental health issues to enhance health outcomes for mothers and their children.

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA), a UK charity network comprising over 125 organisations, commits to high-quality care for families facing perinatal mental health issues. This year, the MMHA has set daily themes to enhance the dialogue about maternal mental health. Starting on Monday, 29 April, the focus is on demystifying perinatal mental illness with various resources, including an animation and expert videos. On Tuesday, attention shifts to the support required for perinatal mental health in workplaces.

World Maternal Mental Health Day on Wednesday calls for united advocacy for maternal mental health needs. Thursday explores identity changes during the perinatal period, coinciding with the launch of a new campaign in collaboration with Aveeno Baby. The week progresses with themes that highlight recovery stories, provide empowering resources, and conclude with reflections on Sunday, 5 May. Each theme aims to educate, support, and empower individuals across the UK, promoting a deeper understanding and better support systems for maternal mental health.

Mental Health During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a profound life event that sparks various emotional responses. Although often joyous, it can also worsen or trigger mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Factors like hormonal changes, previous mental health issues, and the stress of impending parenthood can all contribute. Early recognition of symptoms and seeking support through therapy, support groups, or medical intervention can mitigate these effects and improve health for both mother and baby.

Mental Health Postpartum

The importance of postpartum mental health cannot be overstated, yet it often receives insufficient attention. Issues such as postpartum depression (PPD), anxiety, and psychosis can severely affect a mother’s ability to bond with her child and function daily. Stigma and a lack of awareness often prevent mothers from seeking necessary help. Informing new mothers and their families about the symptoms and available treatments is essential.

Maternal Mental Health Study

Suicide is a significant cause of maternal death during pregnancy and the year following birth, known as the perinatal period. Despite its rarity in the UK, with a prevalence of 3.84 per 100,000 live births, the consequences of maternal suicide are devastating and enduring. Alarmingly, the estimated global prevalence of suicide attempts is much higher, at 680 per 100,000 during pregnancy and 210 per 100,000 post-birth.

The ASPEN-study, focusing on perinatal suicide attempts, aims to deepen our understanding of the experiences and contexts of these events. This qualitative research highlights the critical need to explore the motives and circumstances leading to suicide attempts among pregnant individuals and new mothers.

The findings suggest that feelings of entrapment and despair, often amidst traumatic life events and adversities, are potential indicators of risk. Recognising these signs early through meaningful enquiry could enhance care, aiding in the timely prevention of maternal suicides and improving overall maternal mental health outcomes.

How Companies Can Help:

Employers play a pivotal role in supporting the mental health of mothers returning to work. Here are effective ways companies can assist:

  • Flexible Work Arrangements: Facilitate flexible hours and remote work opportunities to help mothers balance work and home life effortlessly.
  • Parental Leave Policies: Develop or enhance parental leave policies that provide sufficient time off for both mothers and fathers, aiding in reducing postpartum stress and promoting family bonding.
  • Supportive Work Environment: Cultivate a culture that supports mental health, providing resources like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that offer counselling and mental health support, and training managers to recognise and appropriately respond to mental health issues.
  • Childcare Support: Ease one of the significant stresses for working parents by assisting with childcare, whether through onsite facilities, partnerships with local childcare providers, or subsidies.
  • Health and Wellness Programs: Promote overall health and well-being through programs that include stress management workshops, wellness apps, and access to fitness centres, all of which can improve mental health.

Final Thoughts

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week serves as a vital reminder of the unique mental health challenges mothers face during one of the most transformative phases of their lives. By understanding and addressing these issues, we can contribute to healthier families and stronger communities. Our active support can profoundly impact the lives of countless women returning to the workforce.

For more information on maintaining good mental health during pregnancy, visit the NHS’s Mental Health in Pregnancy page. If you think a referral might help, please speak to your midwife, GP, health visitor, social worker, mental health service, or a support charity. 

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