• Vicky Taylor

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week.

Monday 3rd May 2021 marked the start of the 5th annual UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, organised, and led by Perinatal Mental Health Partnership. This week-long campaign is dedicated to talking about and raising awareness regarding mental health during and after pregnancy alongside advocating for and supporting families to access the information, care and support they need.


This year’s theme is ‘Journeys to Recovery’ which invites those who feel comfortable to do so, to share photographs of the different things which have helped and supported them during their journey of recovery, this may include therapeutic writing, a craft you made, a book you read or the information of a charity or organisation who supported you. Over the past year mental health support has been provided in new and alternative ways and one of the aims of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week is to highlight how families can access support during these unusual times. Throughout this week Perinatal Mental Health Partnership will be providing a variety of online activities, support sessions and talks covering a range of themes including reaching out for support, support for friends and family and individuals’ personal and lived experience during the perinatal period. Through their online platform Perinatal Mental Health Partnership provide a supportive platform for families to access information and support regarding vital resources and safe support available at present. Their focus is to ensure that parents feel informed and supported during a time when anxiety for so many is heightened. For more information regarding the online events taking place this week please visit the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership website here.


Saturday 8th May will be led by Dr Andy Mayers and will focus on Paternal Mental Health, raising awareness and providing support and information regarding difficulties fathers may experience following the birth of a child. According to research carried out by the Mental Health Foundation approximately 38% of first-time fathers are concerned about their mental health, with the Fathers Network Scotland finding that at least 1 in 10 new dads experience post-natal depression with up to 45% of dads experiencing post-natal stress and anxiety. During the perinatal period it is important to recognise and raise awareness regarding the difficulties fathers may experience in relation to their mental health. For some father’s during this period, they may begin to feel overwhelmed by a sense of responsibility, they may experience feelings of helplessness or feel useless and may overwork themselves as a way of compensating for these feelings. For some fathers they may struggle to bond with their baby and may experience feelings of low self-worth or low self-esteem. Fathers may also experience post-traumatic stress, particularly if they’ve witnessed their loved on going through a difficult or traumatic birth and may experience feelings of hopelessness or helplessness. Mark Williams founder of Fathers Reaching Out highlights how when we are thinking of perinatal mental health it is necessary to start thinking “family” rather than simply “mother and child” to ensure that fathers aren’t ignored or left to suffer alone in silence. For more information, support and resources regarding paternal mental health please visit the Fathers Reaching Out website which can be accessed here or the Fathers Network which can be accessed here.


Around 1 in 4 women experience difficulties relating to their mental health during their pregnancy or in the first year following giving birth. It may feel difficult at times to talk openly about how you’re feeling when becoming a new parent, you may experience pressure to feel happy or excited and may feel worried of others judgements or responses, however, it’s important to seek help or support during this time. Initially, you may wish to discuss how you’re feeling with your Healthcare Professional or GP who can support in accessing perinatal support. Perinatal Mental Health Partnership member Eve Canavan, has created a directory of perinatal mental health support during Covid-19 and beyond which can be accessed here. In addition, mental health charity Mind has available further information and support regarding perinatal mental health which can be accessed here.


As with journeys of recovery, each of our experiences of mental health is different and individual, therefore, it is important to remain open to our experience and how we’re feeling and seek support when we experience changes in our mood. However, at times it can be helpful to be aware of some of the symptoms of different mental health concerns which individuals may experience during the perinatal period. Below I have included some further information regarding some of the mental health concerns individuals may experience alongside associated symptoms, further information regarding these can be found on the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership website.


Perinatal Anxiety:

Symptoms may include:

  • An overwhelming feeling of dread

  • Feeling something terrible is going to happen

  • Panic attacks

  • Racing thoughts which can feel constant and overwhelming

  • Feeling tense or nervous

  • Feeling agitated, restless or irritable

  • Feeling light headed or dizzy

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Changes in your breathing - faster shallow breathing or feeling breathless

  • Feeling nauseous or being sick

  • Rumination – thinking over a situation again and again


Antenatal Depression:

Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling detached from your pregnancy

  • Feeling overwhelmed by your pregnancy or the idea of the responsibility of being a parent

  • Feelings of helplessness regarding the future

  • Feeling angry, restless or irritated

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Experiencing feelings of guilt

  • Feeling empty or numb

  • Feeling hopeless or despairing


Perinatal OCD

Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed by fear, worry or panic

  • Obsessions which may include unwelcome or upsetting intrusive thoughts, images, worries, doubts or urges which repeatedly appear in your mind

  • Compulsions which are repetitive activities you do to reduce the distress, fear and anxiety caused by obsessions.


Postnatal Depression

Symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty bonding with your baby

  • Thinking you are not a good mum

  • Feeling frightened or scared

  • Feelings of anger or rage

  • Feeling hopeless

  • Upsetting or distressing thoughts

  • Suicidal thoughts


Postpartum Psychosis

Symptoms may include:

  • Feelings of confusion

  • Delusions

  • Hallucinations

  • Feeling agitated or suspicious

  • Feeling disoriented

  • Rapid changes in mood

  • Racing thoughts


I hope you find the above information helpful, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.


Vicky