We need to talk about maternal mental health

Young black mother holds her baby in a light room

It’s Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week! What better time to talk about Maternal Mental Health? Running from the 1st-7th May, the week is a week-long campaign dedicated to talking about mental health problems before, during and after pregnancy.

Why do we need to talk about Maternal Mental Health? Here are 5 key facts that show just how important it is:

  1. Around 1 in 5 women will experience mental health problems during or after pregnancy.
  2. 70% will hide or underplay the severity of their illness.
  3. Suicide is the leading cause of direct maternal death within a year of having a baby.
  4. There are disproportionate rates of pregnancy-related and perinatal mental health challenges among black women.
  5. Black women are the group least likely to receive follow-up treatment.

At BLG Mind, we understand that being a new parent comes with many challenges.

Our Mindful Mums service offers award-winning, free well-being groups that help pregnant women, birthing people and new parents look after their mental and emotional well-being during pregnancy and their baby’s first year. The groups create a non-judgmental space for parents to talk freely about their experiences as new parents.

We recognise that the parenting experience differs greatly. We offer a variety of targeted well-being groups for new and expectant parents including dads and male caregivers, those who identify as LGBTQ+, young mums and Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority communities. Find out more on the Mindful Mums page.

To mark Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, we spoke to three mums, Sarah, Lauren and Kelly, about the support they received through Mindful Mums.

Woman holds her baby

Sarah’s story

“Seeing a culturally diverse team put me at ease”

Sarah was recommended our Diversity Matters Mindful Mums groups by a friend of a friend who said they were ‘amazing’.

Sarah was looking for a different experience of mum groups – a safe place she could go to talk to other mums, and not feel judged. “I wanted to feel free to ask culturally specific questions and to be able to talk to mums with similar experiences to herself”

Sarah was anxious about meeting new people, but was instantly reassured. “It was nice to come in and see that the BLG Mind Mindful Mums’ team were from culturally diverse backgrounds. This put me at ease. Seeing a diverse team was refreshing, because everywhere I go, I see people who don’t look like me running the groups. Also seeing all the diversity amongst other mums in the group felt reassuring. We were all there for the same reasons, and everyone opened up quickly and said they wanted a safe space, so it let everyone know we were on the same page, and I felt like I would be able to express myself”

Sarah made a lasting connection with the Diversity Matters Mindful Mums’ group.Because we all felt comfortable in the group, we would go to the park after the group finished, to have a debrief about our weeks and catch up. Because of the WhatsApp group we were encouraged to set up, we could continue conversations, ask questions and meet up. We continue to meet weekly, so we are planning to combine groups and try and form a wider network. Clearly there is a need for a space like this”

Find your nearest group in Bromley, Lewisham or Greenwich on the Mindful Mums page.

“Our Diversity Matters Mindful Mums Groups appeal to women who experience the trials of motherhood in other complex and nuanced ways, and who often do not see themselves positively represented, or represented at all.

Watching how quickly our attendees find connection, familiarity, understanding and acceptance in the groups has been a wonderful thing to be a part of.”

– Chantelle Adonai-Lane, Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich Mind (BLG Mind)

A woman cuddling her baby

Lauren’s story

“A service like this is like gold-dust”

Following the traumatic birth of her second son, Lauren’s health visitor referred her to Mindful Mums.

“My husband is a shift worker and we only moved to the Orpington area a few years ago so I was feeling very isolated. I’d had a traumatic birth and that, coupled with my social anxiety, made it very difficult for me to leave the house.”

Lauren attended the Mindful Mums face-to-face group in Bromley. “I was really nervous at first but it was very relaxed. Both the staff and other participants were lovely. I was particularly concerned because my older son has autism and selective mutism, but everyone was incredibly understanding, and my son really enjoyed it as well. I settled really quickly and every time I went, my anxiety improved.”

Prior to joining Mindful Mums, Lauren’s experience of parenting groups had sadly been negative. “Many other parenting groups don’t have such a welcoming environment. I always came away feeling very anxious and worse about myself, whereas Mindful Mums is the opposite.

“Everyone at Mindful Mums is really honest about their struggles. No one is trying to be the Mum of the Year. Being a mum can be really isolating and lonely, and a service like this is like gold-dust.

“Mindful Mums is definitely one of the best things I have ever done. It really improved my mental health. In fact, one of the things that stopped us moving further away into Kent was that there was no Mindful Mums service there, so we’re going to stay in Bromley.”

Find your nearest group in Bromley, Lewisham or Greenwich on the Mindful Mums page.

two mums smile at eachother, one holding a baby

Kelly’s story

“Mindful Mums has helped me want to continue to live”

Kelly and her wife and decided to get pregnant at the same time and after a successful IVF process, both welcomed healthy babies, six days apart. “My wife gave birth first and took one of our babies home meaning I was left to deliver our second baby alone. We both had emergency c-sections and unfortunately during mine, I was given too much epidural and was left paralysed for four hours after birth. It was from this time of being stranded in hospital alone, that my mental health began to deteriorate. I felt intense feelings of panic and fear”

During the first few months of motherhood, Kelly’s feelings of panic and anxiety stayed with her and she struggled to eat or sleep. “Due to our c-sections, my wife and I could barely walk, and I felt like looking after the babies was completely unmanageable. I began to have feelings of hopelessness and although I was able to take care of them from a practical point of view (food, nappies, sleep), I struggled to connect with our babies or feel any love for them. After six months, I started to think that life wasn’t worth living and I began having suicidal thoughts. The only thing keeping me alive was the thought of leaving my wife alone with the babies – I just couldn’t do it to her”.

Kelly knew she needed to do something to change the way she was feeling so she went to therapy and meditated daily. “This helped, but did not stop my suicidal thoughts, so I saw my GP who diagnosed me with Post Natal Depression and prescribed me anti-depressants. It was also my GP who recommended the BLG Mind Mindful Mums five-week course to me”

Kelly found it very easy to contact Mindful Mums. “Contacting Mindful Mums was easy, and I heard back from them straight away with a personal and welcoming email. I had no idea how much this group would help me, but it turned out to be life changing. I realised that everyone struggles with the changes of parenthood and that feeling low is normal. I found the “5 Ways to Wellbeing” framework helpful and was able to understand some of the factors that contributed to my Post Natal Depression. Mindful Mums gave me practical ways to rebuild myself and I learned how to ‘just be’ with my babies. I found myself enjoying motherhood for the first time which I couldn’t believe!”

“Without Mindful Mums I would still feel isolated and lost. My confidence would still be very low and I would not have been able to take my life back. I went from hating motherhood and counting every minute that passed, to simply being in the moment, and learning to connect with my babies. Ultimately, Mindful Mums has helped me want to continue to live”.

Find your nearest group in Bromley, Lewisham or Greenwich on the Mindful Mums page.

If you have any queries about Mindful Mums, please email mindfulmums@blgmind.org.uk