This week (3-9 May) is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, and mums are getting together to raise awareness and offer support to other mums. Mums supporting other mums, that create a storm, with Instagram feeds ranging from the perfect picture, to the painfully honest, have burgeoned into an industry that is growing in strength, maturity and diversity.
This week, mums are using their voices to raise awareness about maternal mental health, hoping to shine a spotlight on an issue that has only worsened during the pandemic. Even pre-pandemic, it was estimated that 1 in 5 women suffer mental health issues during pregnancy or in the first year after birth (Royal College of Psychiatrists) and that up to 50% of mothers with mental health issues are undiagnosed and struggle alone without treatment support (NCT Research).
A rapid evidence review of the impact of Covid-19 on women in pregnancy and early motherhood, by Centre for Mental Health and Maternal Mental Health Alliance, found that women and their families have faced extra pressures on their mental health, including anxiety about giving birth during lockdown or about becoming unwell, fears about losing employment, and increasing levels of domestic violence. It finds that some groups of women face a higher than average risk of poor mental health, including women from racialised communities and women experiencing economic deprivation.
Dr Andrew Mayers, an expert in perinatal mental health at Bournemouth University, said “Maternal mental health is so important for many reasons. When a mum develops mental health problems after the birth of her baby, it’s not just her it affects; it will have an impact on her bond with her baby and the relationship with her partner. Mum will often feel intensely guilty about how she is feeling and the impact this is having. At least one-half of mums will not tell anyone (her midwife, health visitor, GP, or even her own family) for fear of having her baby taken away. And yet, without help, these problems can get much worse. We need to raise awareness to help mums feel that it’s OK to ask for help. That’s why awareness weeks like this one are so helpful “. Dr Mayers is also a founding member of the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership, who created the Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week.
Where there are gaps or inefficiencies in services to support mums, teams of dedicated mums are doing it for themselves. Mums have created businesses that are inspired by first-hand experience, a strong desire to support other mums and fight for a systemic change. Last year, the Five x More petition to improve maternal outcomes for black women in the UK, gained over 187,000 signatures, leading to a debate in parliament this month.
Successful “mums supporting mums” companies, such as Nourish, Happity and Isabella & Us, were born around the same time as mums flooded onto Instagram to lift the curtain on what motherhood really means to mums:
“These parent voices have transformed the discourse around parenthood, providing an accessible place to discuss issues previously hushed away.”
“Postnatal depression, miscarriage, anxiety, body-confidence, birth trauma and more, all quite rightly have a place in the community, with influencers positively encouraging support, awareness and discussion”, said marketing expert, Emma Worrollo
This year, these companies are using their large Instagram followings to support Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. The Nourish App is interviewing 15 mums about their experience and their journey to recovery and hosting a charitable networking event for mums supporting mums, to raise money for PANDAS Foundation. Happity, whose mission it is to end loneliness in parenthood, is running the #ShoutieSelfie campaign. Isabella & Us, the Positive Wellbeing Zine for Mums, is running a campaign #winningasamummy.
Nourish App was created to support mums who are maybe “not ill enough” to receive support from the NHS, but who are feeling unsupported and alone in their struggles. Nourish offers bite-sized calm and wellbeing at mum’s fingertips via her smartphone. The app is a relevant & relatable, multi-disciplinary self-care toolkit and a supportive community to help mums deal with the different emotions and challenges that they meet in the early years of parenting.
Sara Campin, Founder of Nourish says, “My biggest regret is not having access to the psychology insights and practical wellbeing tools available on the Nourish app earlier in my motherhood journey. It would have made all the difference to my ability to cope in those early days and to the foundations of my relationships with my kids. Even now when my kids are 6 and 8, I turn to the tools on the app daily, to support me through the highs and lows of parenting.”
“We all find it difficult to look after our mental health, but as mothers, we really struggle to give ourselves permission, find the time, or even know how. At Nourish we make self-care easy, acceptable and relevant for mothers so they can navigate the struggles more smoothly, reaping significant dividends for their families and broader communities.”
Happity is the place parents go to find baby & toddler classes near them. Happity’s was set up after Co-Founder Emily struggled with Post-Natal Depression and wanted to help parents to build a community around them for support and friendship. This year they have been instrumental in the Government supporting new parents.
Emily Tredget, Co-Founder of Happity says, “I struggled with PND&A for over 2 years after having my son. It was a terribly lonely time. It wasn’t until I started talking to others about my struggles that I found two things. One that so many others were struggling too. And two, that by talking about my struggles I started to feel better. This is what #ShoutieSelfie is all about – letting new mums know they are not alone, and that there is support. I then went on to co-found Happity as I’d found that building community through local baby & toddler groups was not only key for my mental health, but for the development of my baby after such a long time isolating myself.
Isabella and Us. is home to the Positive Wellbeing Zine for Mums and gifts for mums that promote self care and wellbeing. At Isabella and Us. we are all about promoting positive wellbeing in mums, celebrating our mum wins and making time for ourselves.
Emma Cottam, Founder of Isabella & Us says, “After having my daughter in December 2017 I struggled with my mental health, and as she turned five months old I was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression. After five long months of struggling in this deep dark fog, I was able to find the support I needed to start to get better. The Positive Wellbeing Zine for Mums and the #winningasmummy campaign were born out of my own experiences, and a drive to support other mums on their journey, by encouraging mums to make time for themselves and by talking openly and honestly about motherhood”
For more information about Maternal Mental Health Week, visit the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership website: https://perinatalmhpartnership.com/