Maternal Mental Health

By Grace Champion

I am really excited to be writing this blog post, not only because it is such an important topic which perhaps doesn’t get as much attention as it should, but also because it is extremely close to my heart. I am currently (as I am writing this) 33 weeks pregnant with my first child, and attempting to navigate the journey of pregnancy whilst working full time, and also looking towards becoming a first-time parent in just a few weeks’ time. Within this blog post, I’ll be exploring mental health within pregnancy, with a nod to my own experience of this, and advocating for why it is so important that we raise awareness around this topic.

Within the most recent Suicide Prevention Strategy for England (2023 – 2028), pregnant women and new mothers are among the priority groups who will be receiving suicide prevention support. This is because, in the UK, suicide is the leading cause of direct deaths 6 weeks to a year after the end of pregnancy. In 2020, women were 3 times more likely to die by suicide during or up to 6 weeks after the end of pregnancy compared with 2017 to 2019. Transformation in specialist perinatal (the time in which you are pregnant, and up to 2 years after giving birth) mental health services is also part of the NHS’s Long Term Plan.

Mental health problems which are the most common within pregnancy are depression and anxiety. Around 12% of pregnant women experience depression, and 13% experience anxiety, at some point in the 40-week journey. Many women will experience both. Psychosis can also re-emerge or become more severe during pregnancy and the post-partum period. There is also something called ‘tokophobia’, which is an extreme fear of childbirth, which can occur on its own or can coexist with depression. Women also go through many changes to their body during pregnancy, which can – in some cases – lead to feelings such as low self-esteem and low self-confidence.

My own mental health within pregnancy

Insomnia is something I have experienced during my pregnancy journey. It is common within pregnancy, and can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion and just not quite feeling ‘yourself’. The latter especially is something I have struggled with – feeling slower, forgetful, less organised: both within work but also within my personal life. When you are having a conversation with someone and you find it extremely difficult to finish your sentence, articulate what you want to say, or find that adjective that you want to use, you can feel stupid, inadequate and useless. This can lead to mental exhaustion which, when coupled with the physical exhaustion you may also feel during pregnancy, produces a low energy within you. As someone who prides themselves on being energetic, efficient and ordered, losing that part of myself was hard and I found myself trying to grab onto that part of me and hold onto it for dear life, rather than attempting to embrace the slower pace and ‘rest’, which is what all of the healthcare professionals tell you to do!

All of the above feelings can also lead to loss of creativity, which is particularly difficult for me because I am a Drama Therapist, and need a certain amount of creativity in order to effectively do my job. It can feel as though part of your identity has changed when you feel as though you have ‘lost’ that part of yourself. There is an interesting dynamic around your own identity when you’re becoming a parent anyway, as suddenly you don’t have just yourself to think about anymore – you are going to be responsible for a tiny human being who is completely dependent on you, which can feel incredibly daunting and scary. There is so much (sometimes contradictory!) advice out there around what you should and shouldn’t do when you are having a baby – you should breastfeed, you shouldn’t co-sleep, you should have a ‘natural’ birth – that it starts to feel overwhelming and extremely pressuring on mothers (and fathers) to be.

Becoming a mum when you’ve lost your own mum

There is also an added element which plays on my mind throughout my pregnancy journey: I am becoming a mum when I have lost my own mum.

My mum unfortunately and tragically died in February 2000 to cancer, when I was only 7 years old. I often wonder how different this pregnancy journey – and journey into motherhood – would be if she were still here. I would love to ask her questions about her experience and learn from her, as well as have her as an emotional support during this time. I imagine she would tell me not to listen to unsolicited advice and follow my gut instinct as a mother. I imagine she would tell me about her experience of ‘that magical moment’ when you see your child for the first time. I imagine she would tell me that I can’t be as organised as my Virgo-self wishes to be, and that part of motherhood is ‘going with the flow’ and ‘learning on the job’.

 I wonder whether I will be like her as a mother, or whether I am like her already. I hope that I have innately absorbed some of the positive traits that she had as a mother just from being her daughter. I hope that having my own child will help me to feel closer to her, and I hope it will provide me with an opportunity to have a deeper understanding of her experience.


I hope this blog has helped to raise awareness around why Maternal Mental Health is an important topic to have an understanding of. Maternal Mental Health Awareness week is coming up on 29th April – 5th May. Maternal Mental Health, or Perinatal Mental Health, refer to mental health during pregnancy, and up to 2 years after giving birth. See below some organisations who champion the importance of awareness around this topic, and may be able to help anyone who is experiencing poor Maternal Mental Health:

APNI: APNI – Association for Post-Natal Illness | Post Natal Depression

HFEH Mind’s Perinatal Partner’s Service: Perinatal Partner’s Service – Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing and Hounslow Mind (

HFEH Mind’s Safe Space: Safe Space – Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing and Hounslow Mind (

Maternal Mental Health Alliance: Home | Maternal Mental Health Alliance

Mums Aid: Home – MumsAid (

NHS England’s Maternal Mental Health Services: NHS England » Maternal mental health services

Open P.A.W.S: OpenPAWS – Perinatal Anxiety & Worry Support

PANDAS Foundation: Home – PANDAS Foundation UK


Suicide prevention in England: 5-year cross-sector strategy – GOV.UK (

Introduction | Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance | Guidance | NICE

Posted on: 2nd April 2024

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