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Maternal Mental Health Week 2024

Updated: May 3

World Maternal Mental Health Day

World Maternal Health day is celebrated on the first Wednesday of May, which in 2024 falls on the 1st of May. Maternal Mental Health (MMH) Day is imperative in for the improvement of mother (or birthing parent) and child mental and physical health outcomes for numerous reasons. Firstly, it sheds light on a silent epidemic affecting mothers worldwide: perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), impacts up to 1 in 5 new mothers in many countries. These disorders often go unnoticed and untreated, with devastating consequences for both mother and child. Secondly, MMH Day aims to dispel the myth that PMADs discriminate - they affect women of all cultures, ages, income levels, and races, manifesting anytime during pregnancy and the first year postpartum. Effective treatments exist, but awareness is key to access. Thirdly, MMH Day influences policy by challenging harmful attitudes that stigmatise mental illness, especially in cases like infanticide where women are criminalised instead of treated. Through awareness, we aim to prevent such tragedies and organisations like World MMH Day and Maternal Mental Health Alliance advocate for just, evidence-based care. Lastly, MMH Day fosters a cultural shift towards prioritising mental health alongside physical health, striving to improve the quality of care for all mothers and reduce the stigma associated with maternal mental illness. By encouraging open conversations and support-seeking behaviours, we create a healthier, more compassionate society for mothers and families.

World Maternal Mental Health Day serves as a powerful reminder of the collective strength and solidarity within the maternal community. It's a day to celebrate the resilience of mothers worldwide, to honour their experiences, and to recognise the importance of supporting one another through the highs and lows of the perinatal journey.

Maternal Mental Health Week

Demystifying Perinatal Mental Illness

Perinatal mental health encompasses a vast spectrum of experiences, from the common struggles of anxiety and depression to the more severe and less understood conditions like postpartum psychosis. By demystifying these illnesses, we break down barriers to seeking help and encourage open dialogue surrounding mental health during pregnancy and early parenthood.

Demystifying perinatal mental health involves a multifaceted approach aimed at increasing awareness, fostering understanding, and providing support. There are many ways that we as individuals, as communities, as professionals, as organisations and as a nation can help to change this:

  1. Education and Awareness Campaigns: Launching educational campaigns that provide accurate information about perinatal mental health conditions, their symptoms, risk factors, and available treatments. These campaigns can be disseminated through various channels, including social media, community workshops, healthcare providers' offices, and educational institutions.

  2. Storytelling and Personal Testimonials: Sharing personal stories and testimonials from individuals who have experienced perinatal mental health challenges can humanise the issue and help reduce stigma. Providing platforms for mothers to share their experiences openly and without judgment can encourage others to seek help and support.

  3. Training for Healthcare Professionals: Providing comprehensive training for healthcare professionals, including obstetricians, midwives, nurses, and mental health providers, on perinatal mental health screening, assessment, and treatment. This ensures that healthcare providers are equipped to recognise and address perinatal mental health issues effectively.

  4. Peer Support Groups: Establishing peer support groups for mothers experiencing perinatal mental health challenges can provide a safe and supportive environment for sharing experiences, seeking advice, and accessing resources. Peer support groups can help reduce feelings of isolation and provide validation and encouragement from others who have been through similar experiences.

  5. Partnering with Community Organisations: Collaborating with community organisations, advocacy groups, and mental health organisations to raise awareness of perinatal mental health issues and provide support services. This may involve hosting events, providing resources, and advocating for policy changes to improve access to perinatal mental health care.

  6. Integrating Mental Health Screening into Routine Care: Incorporating routine mental health screening into prenatal and postnatal care can help identify women at risk for perinatal mental health issues early and facilitate timely intervention and support. Screening tools can be integrated into standard prenatal and postnatal assessments conducted by healthcare providers.

  7. Empowering Mothers to Seek Help: Empowering mothers to prioritise their mental health and seek help when needed by providing information on available resources, including mental health hotlines, support groups, therapy options, and online resources. Normalising help-seeking behaviour and reassuring mothers that they are not alone in their experiences can encourage them to reach out for support.

By implementing these strategies, we can work towards demystifying perinatal mental health, reducing stigma, and ensuring that all mothers receive the support and care they need during this critical period.

Moving Together Through Your Changing World

The perinatal period heralds a time of immense transformation, not only physically but also emotionally, for both parents and families. From the anticipation of pregnancy to the adjustments of early parenthood, each stage brings its own set of challenges and joys. Yet, by acknowledging and embracing these changes collectively, we forge a path forward with greater resilience and compassion.

Empowering Mental Health and Disability Perspectives

The journey of motherhood intertwines with the complexities of disability and mental health, shaping experiences in profound ways. For mothers with disabilities, societal attitudes, accessibility barriers, and healthcare disparities can compound the challenges they face, impacting their mental well-being. However, it's crucial to recognise that disability does not diminish one's capacity for love, nurturing, and fulfilling parenting experiences. Instead, it invites a reimagining of traditional notions of motherhood, emphasising adaptability, resilience, and the celebration of diverse abilities.

Navigating pregnancy and childbirth as a person with a disability often involves confronting stereotypes and misconceptions about one's ability to parent. From concerns about physical limitations to assumptions about competency, mothers with disabilities may encounter scepticism and discrimination from healthcare providers, family members, and society at large. These experiences can take a toll on mental health, leading to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. Yet, many individuals with disabilities are fully capable of providing love, care, and dedication to their children, challenging societal norms and reshaping perceptions of parenthood.

Accessibility is a critical consideration for mothers with disabilities, encompassing everything from accessible healthcare facilities to adaptive parenting equipment and support services. Accessible prenatal care, childbirth education classes, and parenting resources can empower mothers with disabilities to navigate the perinatal period with confidence and support. Moreover, advocating for inclusive policies and accommodations in healthcare settings and society at large is essential for ensuring equitable access to maternal healthcare and parenting opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Mental health support is integral to the well-being of mothers with disabilities, especially during the perinatal period. Access to mental health services, including therapy, counselling, and peer support groups, can provide vital resources for managing stress, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, raising awareness about the intersection of disability and mental health can help reduce stigma and promote understanding within healthcare settings and communities.

Motherhood for individuals with disabilities often requires resilience, creativity, and resourcefulness to overcome obstacles and provide loving care for their children. Embracing one's identity as a disabled parent can foster a sense of empowerment and belonging within a supportive community of peers. By amplifying the voices and experiences of mothers with disabilities, advocating for inclusive policies and support services, and promoting mental health awareness, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all mothers to thrive, regardless of ability or mental health status. Ultimately, disability and motherhood intersect to enrich and diversify the tapestry of parenting experiences, highlighting the beauty and strength inherent in all forms of family.

Finding You in This Journey: Identity Transformation in the Perinatal Period

The transition to parenthood is not just a physical and logistical adjustment but also a profound journey of identity transformation. As individuals navigating the complexities of pregnancy and early parenthood, we often find ourselves redefining who we are and what matters most to us. This process of self-discovery is both challenging and empowering, as new facets of identity emerge alongside the responsibilities of caregiving.

Amidst the profound joys and responsibilities of motherhood, it's crucial not to lose sight of one's individual identity and well-being. While nurturing and caring for children is a central aspect of parenthood, it's equally important for mothers to prioritise self-care, personal growth, and fulfilment outside of their roles as caregivers. Losing oneself in motherhood can lead to feelings of burnout, exhaustion, and a loss of connection with one's passions and interests. Therefore, carving out time for self-care, pursuing hobbies and interests, maintaining social connections, and seeking support when needed are essential practices for preserving a sense of self amidst the beautiful chaos of raising children. By nurturing their own well-being, mothers can show up as their best selves for their families while honouring their individuality and aspirations.

Perinatal Positivity Pot: Shining a Light on Parent Voices and Recovery Stories

Jane's Story

"All my pregnancies were complicated after birth. My first baby had to be cared for by my mother while I spent 3 months recovering in hospital from infections. With my second baby I had Swine Flu followed by a blood clot that landed me back in hospital for four months where they thankfully discovered some placenta had been left behind and were able to remove it before the situation became deadly. With my third pregnancy I was induced early to start immediate chemotherapy for breast cancer. Being separated from all my children after birth was very hard for my mental health. As a disabled parent, I had prepared myself for the ways I'd need to adapt to the physical demands of parenthood with the right support and equipment, but I had not expected the complications and how that would impact my mental health and physical health. The support I received wasn't good, it was practically none existent. When I asked my Health Visitor for help, instead of referring me to perinatal mental health services she referred me to social services, who only cared whether or not I was physically capable of parenting my child as someone with a disability and not about supporting me with my mental health. I realised that no one was interested in helping me, so I helped myself. As the children got older and I was able to engage with groups, I met both able bodied and disabled parents who were able to provide me with information, support and community. I engaged with as many groups as I could from baby sign language to toddler groups. None of this information came to me, I had to go find it all and I'm glad I did because the engagement in those groups is what eventually improved my mental health. Through this experience, I rediscovered my strength which I have used to engage in the community, to volunteer and to advocate for other disabled people before eventually working for Tailored Leisure to improve access, physical and mental health in the disabled community."

Jane Bray

Artemis' Story

"The doctor's told me that I would never be a parent, so it was a shock to everyone when I found out I was pregnant. With my disability, the chances of complications were high and I was anxious my entire pregnancy about whether or not I'd survive the birth and if I did survive, how I'd parent as someone with a disability alongside a husband who is also disabled. I knew no one else who was a parent with a disability and the professionals who were caring for me treated me as if my situation was highly abnormal and almost taboo. I brought up my mental health concerns to my Midwife, who was a wonderful professional that listened to my concerns as an individual and she referred me to Perinatal Mental Health Services and children's social services. Both of those organisations were incredibly helpful and supportive throughout my pregnancy. But this was the extent of the help I got, and after failing to get help from adult social services I started looking for help myself. That's when I tried joining perinatal groups like aquanatal - but was rejected because of my disability . That's when I discovered Tailored Leisure - where I found mental health support, physical fitness and community among other disabled people and, most importantly, disabled parents. After the birth of my daughter I overjoyed to finally be a parent. But I also developed Postpartum anxiety, which was misdiagnosed as Baby Blues. Through the support I received from Perinatal Mental Health Services, Children's social services and Tailored Leisure I was finally able to engage with the community. That is when I discovered the Family Hubs and all the fantastic and varied activities, resources and support that they offer to local families. After my daughter was 3 months old and the 'baby blues' had not gone away, I tried to bring up my worries with my Health Visitor. Unfortunately, she took it as proof that her bias against parents with disabilities was justified and launched a months long campaign against my family by falsifying information to children's social services in order to use them as a stick to beat us with. We became victims of direct discrimination and when we tried to tell the other professionals working with us that this was happening, we were largely ignored because we were just the parents and she was the Health Visitor. The first children's social worker we got was no help either by failing to record and submit important information about our situation. It wasn't until we were connected to a different children's social worker that we were able to get out of the situation the Health Visitor had constructed for us. The second children's social worker was incredible, she was able to get us help, resources and support we'd been asking for from adult social services for months! If it weren't for the hard work of Sunderland's Perinatal Mental Health team advocating for my family and our second children's social worker tireless effort to provide us with the support and equipment we needed to parent our situation could have ended up much worse. I'm now volunteering with both Tailored Leisure and the Family Hubs to give back to the organisations that were instrumental in my journey to becoming an independent parent."

Artemis Machabee

Tara's Story

"Being a mother with a disability certainly presents its unique array of challenges. There was very little physical support for me when I first had my children, let alone any kind of mental health support. When I did ask for help, I was sent to social services who despite being helpful in some ways and negligent in others, weren't the help I'd asked for - just the help others assumed I needed because of my disability. So it was up to me to find that help myself. It was a hard journey, harder than it had to be and I decided that this wasn't going to be the road my children would walk. As SEND children, they have had to face their own struggles, but with me as their advocate I have helped them overcome obstacles that took me months and years to overcome when I faced them before. Despite all the obstacles, I've seen my kids grasp onto this really important lesson: that having a disability doesn't define who you are or what you're capable of. That mindset shift has been a game-changer for us. Instead of fixating on limitations, we have collectively embraced a mindset rooted in possibilities and strengths. Central to our approach has been a focus on what I can do, rather than what I cannot. This perspective has served as the cornerstone of our family's resilience and adaptability. By exemplifying perseverance, creativity, and an unwavering belief in our abilities, I have imparted upon my children a powerful lesson in empathy, acceptance, and the beauty of diversity. Through shared experiences, we have gleaned that true strength lies in embracing our differences, celebrating each other's unique attributes, and confronting life's challenges with grace and determination. As a mam with a disability, there's nothing more rewarding than seeing my kids grow into compassionate, mentally resilient individuals who know that their mental health matters just as much as anything else. As a disabled woman, I found my calling in helping others by advocating for change and accessibility in my local area. Creating Tailored Leisure was my way of supporting disabled parents, families, children and individuals to improve mental and physical health and wellbeing through improved access to physical fitness, community and short breaks."

Tara Mackings BEM

Support for All: Sharing Empowering Resources for All Families in the UK

Access to support and resources is essential for every family, regardless of background or circumstance. In this article, we want to share information and services that empower families to seek help, find support networks, and navigate the complexities of perinatal mental health with confidence and resilience.

Family Hubs

Family Hubs foster a diverse and inclusive community of caregivers through services, support and guidance based across the the Sunderland. There are five Family Hubs that provide these essential centralised services to the families of Sunderland. Family Hubs stand ready to provide unwavering support to you and your loved ones, every step of the way. This includes:

  • Sensory Rooms

  • Play Space

  • Birth registration

  • Breastfeeding Support Group

  • Stay and Play

  • Baby Massage

  • Baby Makaton

  • Warm Hub

  • Grove and Move

  • Family Walk

  • Time for Rhyme

  • Pre Natal Yoga

  • And much more!

They also host other organisations and charities that provide specific services and support. Contact your local Family Hub for specific information about what is available to you and your family.

Start for Life

The local Start for Life offer provides comprehensive guidance and assistance from the anticipation of pregnancy to the early years of your baby's life. Through their curated resources, practical advice, and information on available support, they aim to equip you with the tools you need to navigate parenthood with confidence. On the Start for Life section of the website they provide Emotional health and wellbeing information to empower parents to embrace the journey of becoming a parent and managing the mental and emotional health and wellbeing of parents and caregivers.

My Best Life

Looking for help and knowing what is available in your local area can be a challenge for many parents and guardians. This is why the newly launched My Best Life website was created - to provide a centralised database for find and book different events, groups and services available to you and your family. The website is constantly growing as more information gets added all the time!

Make Every Contact Count

If you are worried about a family member or friend who might be struggling with maternal mental health, but you're worried about how to have a healthy conversation about mental wellbeing you can find some great guidance and advice on the Make Every Contact Count website.

Advocating for Change

With a general elections coming up the the UK, now is the time to advocate for change!

Click here to find out more about what you can do to help!


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