Maternal Mental Health Matters; How Best To Offer Your Support

It’s believed that as many as one in four women develop mental ill-health during pregnancy or in the first year after the birth of their baby.

The Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care* report by MBRRACE-UK in 2015, covering the period 2011–13, identified that around 25% of all maternal deaths between 6 weeks and 1 year after childbirth were related to mental health problems and one in seven of those women died from suicide. In approximately 40% of cases, improvements in care may have made a difference to the outcome.

In almost half * of the UK, pregnant women and new mothers have no access to specialist community maternal mental health services and only 7% of women who experienced maternal mental health symptoms were referred to specialist care.

Those are all deeply worrying, and quite frankly shameful, statistics and that’s why we’ve partnered with mental health CIC, WarriorKind, to do something about it! We’re on a mission to not only educate people about peri/postnatal mental illness but also to help support these women where there is a clear lack of NHS support.

As well as launching its #Triggered campaign, which has been created to raise awareness about the language we use when speaking about specific mental illness, WarriorKind has also launched its #SupportAWarrior initiative.

#SupportAWarrior recognises that the current mental health support system is under enormous pressure and is only set to worsen because of the pandemic. With that in mind, they want to help support people who’re slipping through the net and who aren’t able to access the mental health support they need in a timely fashion. With the help from donations, WarriorKind hopes to provide free of charge, private, tailored mental health support to people who’re experiencing mental ill health; whether that be self-harm, suicide, depression, postnatal mental ill health or alcohol use disorder etc.

So, let’s talk about peri/postnatal mental ill health; what it is, how to help and where to access support.

What is peri/postnatal mental ill-health?

If a person experiences mental ill health while they are pregnant or after giving birth, this may be known as:

  • antenatal mental ill health – while they are pregnant
  • postnatal mental ill health – during roughly the first year after giving birth
  • perinatal mental ill health – any time from becoming pregnant to around one year after giving birth.

It’s important to note that there are many mental health experiences a person can develop during and after pregnancy including, depression, PTSD, panic disorders, OCD, eating disorders etc.

How to help someone who’s experiencing peri/postnatal mental ill-health.

First things first, let’s talk about language. Peri/postnatal mental illness is not something someone can ‘snap out of’, ‘get on with’ or cure by ‘thinking positively’ and so it’s important to be mindful of the language you use.

Don’t say things like:

‘It’s just hormones’ as this invalidates what they’re experiencing and is condescending.

‘Think about the baby and the damage and stress it’s causing them’ as this is quite possibly the worst thing to say – it will only cause heightened stress and will bring on feelings of guilt and shame.

Instead, it’s a good idea to:

Understand that mental ill-health during or after pregnancy is not a choice but are severe mental illnesses that the person needs support through. It is important to acknowledge to the person that you know it’s difficult for them, and you are there to support them.

Where to access support:

WarriorKind’s community is a safe place to access peer to peer support from people with shared experiences. As well as having a strong community, they have a wealth of fellow Warrior Stories available on their website where people can go to understand more about specific mental health experiences as well as understand how to seek the most appropriate support.

If you or someone you know needs urgent support, reach out to one of the following agencies:

  • 999 and A&E: if the person is in danger of hurting themselves, has taken an overdose or self-harmed, or is experiencing hallucinations or delusions, or a mental health crisis.
  • 111 is available for advice if the person is not in immediate danger.
  • Samaritans offer listening support for free on 116 123 or email (email response times can be up to 24 hours).
  • If you don’t want to talk, you can text the Shout line, text SHOUT to 85258
  • The Mix is a text line for under 25s: text THEMIX to 85258, or 0800 808 4994.
  • GP surgery is the best place to access NHS resources for mental health issues and getting a diagnosis. GPs prescribe medication where necessary and you may be offered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The first medication and therapy you are offered may not work for you, the important thing is to keep trying to find what fits and helps you.
  • You can refer yourself for certain therapies for
    stress – anxiety – depression – obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – phobias
  • Check the NHS website (England only)

*Stats and data referenced from RCOG.

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