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Why Maternal Mental Health Matters

Sinead Murphy May 3, 2023 1:33:42 PM

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (1-7 May) is an annual campaign dedicated to inspiring conversations around mental health issues that are 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 issues  
  • Provide information and signposting to care and support  

With this year’s theme set as Together in a Changing World, we wanted to champion togetherness by starting the conversation, shining a light on support options, and letting everyone who may be experiencing issues with maternal mental health know that we’re #strongertogether.  


Baby Blues Vs. Postnatal Depression  

Due to the surge of changing hormones and sleepless nights experienced after giving birth, it’s completely normal to feel the baby blues as a new mother. In fact, as many as 4 out of 5 women do. The symptoms of baby blues usually develop within a few days of giving birth, and generally consist of:  

  • Anxiety or restlessness 
  • Feeling short-tempered, sad, or hopeless   
  • Difficulty concentrating  
  • Mood swings    

While the symptoms of baby blues tend to lift after two weeks, you should look for further support if your emotions become unmanageable or interfere with your daily life. However, there are some steps you can take to ensure you’re looking after your wellbeing during this time:   

  • Sleeping as much as possible  
  • Reaching out for help from your partner, family members, or friends  
  • Getting fresh air, gentle exercise, and sunlight, wherever possible  
  • Eating nourishing, wholesome foods  
  • Connecting with a support group for new parents  
  • Limiting your consumption of alcohol  

If your symptoms do not improve within this timeframe or become worse, you may be experiencing postnatal depression. Affecting more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth, and also impacting fathers and partners, postnatal depression is a serious disorder that can cause:  

  • Persistent feelings of sadness  
  • Low mood  
  • Loss of interest and enjoyment in life  
  • Low energy and fatigue  
  • Insomnia  
  • Withdrawal from friends and family   
  • Difficulty with concentrating and decision making  
  • Troubling thoughts of harming yourself or your baby  

If you find yourself dealing with these symptoms during the early stages of motherhood, just remember that you’re not alone and that experiencing these feelings does not make you a bad parent.   

It’s important to reach out to your GP, health visitor, or midwife if you believe you are experiencing postnatal depression as various support pathways are available to you. Effective treatments include self-help/self-care, talking therapies such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), and prescription antidepressants to help get you back on track.  


Counting the Costs of Poor Maternal Mental Health  

The cost of undiagnosed or untreated maternal/perinatal 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:  


1. Set realistic expectations  

In the age of social media, it can be hard to accept and portray anything less than perfection. That’s why it’s so important to set realistic expectations of pregnancy and motherhood. There will be challenges. It will be tough. Just try to remember that your best is good enough and perfection does not exist.  


2. 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 is 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.  


3. Make practical preparations  

It’s no secret that pregnancy, birth, and parenthood are a whirlwind. To help keep your wellbeing in check once your baby arrives, why not take the opportunity to prepare and freeze meals, research local support groups, and allocate childcare duties ahead of time so that you are more mentally and emotionally prepared for parenthood?  


4. 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.   


5. Form connections  

Becoming a new mum can be an isolating experience. However, the phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ exists for a reason. Forming meaningful connections through support or social groups can help you to build a network of people who are experiencing the same challenges – giving you a safe forum to share, learn, and navigate this period together.   


6. Reach out  

If you believe you are suffering from postnatal depression, it’s important to reach out to a professional for 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. Just remember – there’s no shame in asking for help, and doing so does not make you any less capable as a parent. In fact, reaching out for support 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 and perinatal health waiting to be explored. Plus, you can also access a 24-hour telephone helpline for responsive, confidential, and totally independent advice should you or a colleague need mental health support. 



Baby blues after pregnancy | March of Dimes 

Postnatal depression - NHS ( 

Counting the costs | Maternal Mental Health Alliance 

Top 10 tips for mums: Perinatal mental health | Maternal Mental Health Alliance 

How to Emotionally Prepare for Parenthood | Smart Parenting | SMA Baby