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Maternal Mental Health: Beyond the Baby Blues

Sinead Murphy Apr 18, 2024 4:34:27 PM

World Maternal Mental Health Day (1st May) is an annual campaign dedicated to inspiring conversations around mental health issues experienced before, during, and after pregnancy. 

The event seeks to: 

  • Raise awareness and break stigma around maternal mental health concerns 
  • Advocate for those affected by maternal mental health problems  
  • Provide information and signposting to care and support 

With this year’s theme set as Stronger Together, we wanted to champion togetherness by starting the conversation and shining a light on the available support options.  

One in five women will develop a mental illness during pregnancy or in the first year after birth. In the UK, suicide is one of the leading causes of maternal deaths during the year that follows childbirth. Despite this, knowledge and education around the subject is still limited. With the scope for mental health concerns being so broad, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of these issues. However, as awareness grows and research continues, we can better learn how to manage and support maternal mental health. 

While some concerns such as baby blues and postnatal depression are commonly talked about, lesser understood conditions like PTSD, panic disorder, OCD, tokophobia, anxiety, and eating disorders can also become a problem in the perinatal phase. 

In what is often a very busy and emotionally charged time, many mothers may forget to prioritise their own needs or feel guilty for experiencing negative thoughts. But it’s important to remember that you’re not alone, and you’re not a bad parent for feeling anything less than blissful.  

In fact, acknowledging that you’re suffering and getting the help you need is one of the best decisions you can make for yourself – and your child.  


The Cost of Poor Maternal Mental Health   

The cost of undiagnosed or untreated maternal mental health problems can be detrimental to individuals, their families, and the public health sector. As one of the leading causes of death for women during pregnancy and the first postnatal year, maternal mental health issues are costing the economy £8.1 billion per year. The costs to human life and wellbeing is of course far greater.   

Without adequate intervention and support, untreated mental health conditions in new mothers can lead to:   

  • Intense and debilitating suffering for women and their families   
  • Damage to personal and professional relationships   
  • A negative impact on the child’s emotional and cognitive development
  • Risk of serious injury or suicide  


Tips for Achieving Better Maternal Mental Health   

To help you navigate the uncertain and emotionally challenging time of new motherhood, we’ve created some simple tips to support your wellbeing before, during, and after pregnancy:   


Avoid comparison   

We live in an age of perfectly curated social media posts. While it can be difficult not to constantly compare yourself to those around you, it’s important to remember that everyone faces their own struggles – regardless of what they portray online.  

Try to set expectations that are realistic to you and you situation. Talk to yourself kindly, celebrate the small wins, and remind yourself that you’re doing a great job daily.   


Develop an understanding of maternal mental health   

Many people believe that preparing for a baby involves buying clothes, cots, and car seats. While that might be the case, it’s extremely beneficial to prepare for the impact new motherhood will have on your mental health. Learning about the risk factors and symptoms associated with maternal mental health can help you identify if you are predisposed to certain conditions and understand when you might need further support.   


Don’t skip self-care  

Self-care is a must for new mothers. From resting and eating a healthy diet to exercising and taking a long hot bath, it’s so important to take time for yourself – no matter how small those windows of opportunity may be. Whatever self-care looks like for you, be sure to create these moments wherever you can. Doing so will not only support your wellbeing, but will also help you maintain a sense of identity outside of motherhood.    


Create a network   

There’s a reason they say, “it takes a village.” Becoming a mother is no simple task, so don’t be afraid to reach out when you need to. Having people you can relate to is a great way of sharing your experiences and finding solutions that may have helped others.   

Make an effort to join social groups and classes so that you can make friends with people who are in a similar situation. Even a simple coffee and a chat can work wonders for your mental health.  


Reach out  

If you believe you are suffering from postnatal depression, it’s important to seek professional support. Your GP or health visitor will be able to assess your situation and decide on the right treatment pathway to help you get back on your feet in a safe way.   

There’s no shame in asking for help, and doing so does not make you any less capable as a parent. Remember that reaching out is the best option for your wellbeing - and your baby’s.  


Further Support   

If you believe you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please contact a dedicated support service for help and advice. You can:   

  • Call the emergency services on 999   
  • Contact the free and confidential Samaritans helpline on 116 123  
  • Get in touch with the Association of Post Natal Illness (APNI) on 0207 386 0868, or via their live chat box at   
  • Use the 1-2-1 messaging service available from Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) at    

If your employer offers Vivup’s Employee Assistance Programme, there are lots of useful resources around maternal mental health waiting to be explored. Plus, you can also access a 24-hour telephone helpline for responsive, confidential, and totally independent advice on 03303 800658 should you or a colleague need some support.