Maternal Mental Health | Anne Marie McKinley

Recognition that women and men often are deeply affected by their experiences of pregnancy, birth and/or their journey through the postnatal period, is much more dominantly present in the public domain over the past 10 years. This series of blogs will look at some prominent concerns, hopefully contributing to the dialogue that already exists. 

I am old enough, as a midwife, to remember the transition in Midwifery thinking. In the 80s we talked predominantly about postnatal depression, almost to the exclusion of other maternal health conditions. Birth Trauma wasn’t an accepted term then in relation to maternal mental health. Thanks to the work of many who have challenged midwives and health professionals to see differently, the language of maternal mental health has changed for the better. 


Three first three blogs I write for Have you seen that girl? will look at:

1. A brief introduction to the topic of Perinatal mental health.

2. Accessing Courage when your mental health is challenged.

3. Happiness.

(The blogs are short, and so I can really only touch base with any topic. All opinions are my own)

For every year of births, the estimate long term cost to society of Perinatal Mental Health in the UK is 8.1 billion pounds (Bauer, 2014). 1 This estimate is based on the costs of mental health care of women through pregnancy and beyond, and it follows the trajectory of the cost of health-related ‘quality of life losses’ over the lifetime of mothers and their children’.

NHS England defines perinatal mental health problems as occurring during pregnancy and in the first year following the birth of a child. This NHS definition embraces a wide range of mental health conditions and it is estimated that 1:5 women will be affected.

A wealth of research recognises that if women who are having babies suffer from conditions such as anxiety or depression when they are pregnant or after their baby is born, that their children may need additional help as they too develop. There is a push to help parents understand the very real benefits of healthy attachment behaviours, which facilitate the growth of neural pathways, benefiting baby’s development.

This is hard news if you are a mum or dad who finds themselves in this position. Knowledge initiates opportunity for change. There is also wonderful research on the benefits of interventions. Power to enable growth and stimulate a secure base in little ones is in the hands of mums and dads, the wonder of siblings and the extended family. See – 4 Ways to Promote Healthy Attachment in Infants 2


The action of looking forward and considering the cost to infants beyond the labour ward creates the opportunity for voices and agents of change in the story of birth and mental health recovery to be heard. The report in 2014 mentioned above led to an increase in active caring services throughout the NHS for women whose mental health is discussed on booking, or diagnosed at a later stage. Perinatal mental health took on a higher profile with streamlining of services. New support and treatment pathways exist now as a result, provided within many UK and Irish maternity services to women with mental health concerns during pregnancy.

The Birth Trauma Association, a charity which supports women with trauma symptoms post birth, estimates that 30,000 women in the UK experience symptoms annually. The Birth Trauma Association define Birth Trauma as a shorthand phrase for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after childbirth. This is also used for women who have some symptoms of PTSD, but not enough for a full diagnosis. Follow to their website for further information. Link below. 3

Almost 3.5% of women are estimated to already have PTSD when they are pregnant, 4% to have PTSD after childbirth (Yildiz, 2017). 4 Women are individuals, with complicated life histories. As therapists, it is important to see the whole person when we consider working with the various presentations of both trauma and other psychological responses; before, during pregnancy and beyond.

In each of the following weeks various aspects of maternal mental health conditions will be explored.

We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to

Brené Brown


Anne Marie has joined Have you seen that girl? as a regular guest blogger, for the next few months.

Find out more about her and how to get in contact with her HERE.

You can also find all her blog posts, as they are published, HERE on the website.



  1. Bauer et al. (2014). Costs of perinatal mental health problems. London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK
  2. 4 Ways to Promote Healthy Attachment in Infants (The Urban Child Institute)
  3. What is birth trauma? (The Birth Trauma Association)
  4. Yildiz et al. (2017). The prevalence of post traumatic stress disorder in pregnancy and after birth: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affect Disorders. (source; PUBMED 2019)

A growing list of other support, weekly:

NCT – 1st 1,000 Days New Parent Support

Nurture Health – Breaking the Silence of *Conception *Pregnancy *Childbirth

ATNI – Counselling and Training