Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week
Monday 1 – Sunday 7 May 2023
Written by Katie, Touchstone
What is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week?
Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week is a week-long campaign dedicated to talking about mental health problems before, during and after pregnancy.
The week is all about:
- raising public and professional awareness of perinatal mental health problems
- advocating for women and families impacted by it
- changing attitudes
- helping families access the information, care and support they need to recover.
Why is raising awareness so important?
- Around 1 in 5 women experience mental health concerns during pregnancy and the 1st year of parenthood.
- 70% will hide or underplay their illness
- Perinatal mental health problems can have a long-term impact on a woman’s self-esteem and relationships with partners and family members.
- Perinatal mental health problems can have an adverse impact on the interaction between a mother and her baby, affecting the child’s emotional, social and cognitive development.
- Maternal suicide is the leading cause of direct pregnancy related death in the 1st year following birth
- Currently, large numbers of women are not receiving the support they need.
How are Touchstone getting involved?
Touchstone are proud to be one of the partner organisations for Safe Spaces, this service is led by mental health charities The Cellar Trust and Mind in Bradford. Safe Spaces offers same-day crisis support for anyone aged seven and over from Bradford District and Craven who need urgent help with their emotional and mental wellbeing. This could include experiencing severe anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, intense depression or feelings of disassociation.
For more information on Safe Spaces and how to make a referral please check the Healthy Minds website.
In my new role as the Perinatal Lead, I am responsible for raising awareness of perinatal mental health across the partnership to ensure that the needs of parents and families who access Safe Spaces are met during times of crisis in their lives and their voices are truly heard. Safe Spaces workers will navigate the current crisis while prioritising the perinatal mental health needs of women and families, and proactively encourage them to seek specialist help.
Another important part of my role is to raise awareness of perinatal mental health amongst other professionals who work across the city. Everyone who comes into contact with women before, during or after pregnancy has the opportunity to provide mental health support. I have been busy connecting with parent and family facing organisations and groups, such as ‘play and stay’ and breastfeeding support groups. Lack of social support and fear of stigma are two contributing factors that prevent women from receiving adequate care for perinatal mental illness.
Therefore it is vital that new and expectant parents have the opportunity to meet with their peers and feel safe and comfortable to talk about what they are experiencing and how this is impacting their mental health and wellbeing. I have been helping groups to facilitate conversations around perinatal mental health, encouraging parents to seek expert help if needed, providing up to date information on specialist services. There are some fabulous perinatal support services in Bradford including, Bradford Doulas, HomeStart, Roshni Ghar, Family Action perinatal support service and Little Minds Matter.
I am an active member of the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Steering group (set up by Act as One, Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership) which aims to improve experiences and outcomes of the pregnancy and birth journey across Bradford District and Craven.
The group has involvement of many professionals across the city including midwifes and health visitors. This Maternal Mental Awareness Week we have come together to plan a week of activities to raise public and professional awareness of perinatal mental health, with a focus across Bradford and Airedale hospitals. Members of the steering group have planned ‘tea and trolley talks’ across the maternity units and information stalls around the hospitals for example.
In the UK, we take it for granted that all women will receive the support they need to look after their own physical health and that of their babies during pregnancy and the first year after birth. Across the week we will promote for the mental health of all women to be monitored, discussed and treated in the same way as her physical health during this crucial time. It is our aim is to help reduce stigma, spread good practice and help parents and families impacted by perinatal mental health problems to feel seen, heard and supported.
Where can I get support?
You can find information about perinatal mental health problems, including possible causes, treatments and support options on the Mind and Healthy Minds websites:
Perinatal and postnatal mental health – Mind