Maternal mental health support more important than ever during COVID-19

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) have launched new resources for Maternal Mental Health Awareness week to support women and families during COVID-19.

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) is a coalition of 90+ UK organisations, working across the four nations. The MMHA brings the sector together to speak with one voice, campaigning for change and supporting local systems to improve perinatal mental health care.

The MMHA’s Everyone’s Business campaign aims to improve the lives of all women throughout the UK who experience perinatal mental health problems.

Maternal Mental Health Concerns During COVID-19

In the uncertain times of COVID-19 three things remain clear for MMHA:

  1. Perinatal stress and mental health needs are increased from an already high level Before the Coronavirus pandemic, more than 1 in 10 women experienced mental health problems during pregnancy and after birth (often called the perinatal period), but there are mounting concerns that lockdown is causing increased anxieties and pressure on parents.
  2. If left untreated, mental illness during pregnancy or in the first year after birth will continue to have a devastating impact during and beyond the pandemicWe know that the costs of not identifying and treating perinatal mental health problems are significant[1], with potentially wide-ranging effects on the mental and physical health of women, their children, partners and significant others. In severe cases, perinatal mental illness can be life-threatening, with suicide being one of the leading causes of death for women in the UK during the perinatal period[2]. This unnecessary suffering can and must be avoided at all costs.
  3. Perceived and real access to care at every level is reduced, and a proactive approach is needed to overcome these barriers.That is why it is even more important in these uncertain times that women in the perinatal period can access the specialist support and care they and their families need during the crisis.

What is the MMHA doing to help right now?

Plea to PLAN

To ensure women and families in the UK receive the care they need and deserve during the pandemic, MMHA are urging national and local decision-makers to PLAN with the mental as well as physical health needs of women and their families in mind, during and beyond COVID-19.

  • Protect the perinatal mental health workforce and plans through and beyond this crisis
  • Link-up the mental health care and support available for women and families during this time
  • Acknowledge the impact of the crisis on perinatal mental health and its potential long-term consequences
  • Navigate the crisis while prioritising the perinatal mental health needs of women and families and proactively encouraging them to seek help early

The Plea to Plan can be downloaded in English and in Welsh.

Guidance for women and families

MMHA members, staff and leading experts have collaborated on guidance to help new and expectant mums protect their mental wellbeing. This includes mental health and wellbeing tips for women who are pregnant or have recently given birth during the pandemic, and guidance for women and loved ones who are unwell with a maternal mental health problem during the pandemic. The guidance is available in English and Welsh.

New survey for parents launched

MMHA is supporting a new UK wide survey by Homestart, Best Beginnings and Parent Infant Foundation which aims to capture the experiences of expecting a baby or being a parent to a very young child during Covid-19.

This research will help make sure that the voices of pregnant women and new parents are heard and that their experiences and those of their children are at the forefront when decisions are being taken.

What support is available during this time?

 It is important to remember, that even with everything going on, perinatal mental health advice and support doesn’t stop and is available for pregnant and new mums and their families when they need it.

If you are worried that you or your loved one is unwell with a maternal mental health problem during COVID, don’t wait, ask for help and support.

Talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP. They can refer you to local support services and ensure you get the support you need.

How you can help

Help MMHA spread the word to ensure maternal mental health remains a top priority now and as we move out of lockdown.

  1. Share the ‘Plea to PLAN’ with your key contacts
  2. Follow and retweet our calls from @MMHAlliance
  3. Share the expert perinatal mental wellbeing guidance to let women and families know that this is there for them
  4. Share the survey to encourage as many pregnant women, new mums and their partners to talk about their COVID-19 experiences

Further COVID-19 Information and Support

See additional resources from Maternal Mental Health Alliance members offering support, advice and guidance for professionals working with women and families in the perinatal period, for new and expectant parents, and to help us all look after our mental health and wellbeing at this time.

[1] Bauer, A., Parsonage, M., Knapp, M., Lemmi, V., and Adelaja, B (2014) The cost of perinatal mental health problems. Centre for Mental Health and London School of Economics: London

[2] Knight, M., Bunch, K., Tuffnell, D., Shakespeare, J., Kotnis, R., Kenyon, S., Kurinczuk, J. J (2019) (Eds) Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care. Lessons learned to inform maternity care from the UK and Ireland Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths and Morbidity 2015-17. The Maternal, Newborn and Infant Clinical Outcome Review programme: MBRRACE-UK.

 

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Address:

National Centre for Mental Health, Cardiff University, Hadyn Ellis Building, Maindy Road, Cardiff, CF24 4HQ

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