Reflections on Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week - BLSS Academic Blogs

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Monday 30 April to Sunday 6 May 2018 marked the second Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week to be held in the UK. The focus was around ‘support for all’ to enable families to get the information and help that they need during the postnatal period.

This year there was excellent media/social media coverage, such as Radio 5live holding #mumtakeover with Mumsnet and some ‘celebrity’ Mum-Bloggers getting involved to raise awareness; but why do we need to raise awareness?

As with many mental health issues, Postnatal Depression (PND) remains an under-reported condition with fewer than half of women reporting their postnatal depression to practitioners (MacLennan, Wilson and Taylor, 1996). The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) focused on the #hiddenhalf on Twitter to raise awareness, as this issue of under-reporting has failed to go away over the last 20 years, particularly with younger mums and certain ethnic groups.

The other reason that we need to raise awareness in the UK is to remove the barriers in place for gaining help. In the UK there is still a postcode lottery in place around access to mental health support, especially in the postnatal period, with many charities providing the key support in large areas, rather than the NHS. 

This year the social media campaigns also had a focus around the role of the Dad. Recent research has started to examine PND in fathers and the impact that can have on the family. Fathers are increasingly taking larger roles in parenting, and research is identifying similar patterns of PND to those seen in mothers. There has been some evidence that fathers with depression engage less with their infants (Davis, Davis, Freed and Clark, 2011).

The use of social media has been really powerful in getting across this message and has seen both men and women sharing their personal journeys as well as highlighting that photos of ‘perfect parenting’ on social media is not always the reality. At BCU we have a PhD student, Iris-Anda Illes, who is examining the use of social media by mothers and fathers in the postnatal period with a focus on PND. This research will allow us to understand better how social media is used by parents suffering PND as well as identifying how these platforms could be used to reach out and provide help for parents in crisis.

By Dr. Emily Coyne-Umfreville

The content above is the opinion of the author(s), and does not represent the views or opinions of Birmingham City University.


Davis, R. N., Davis, M. M., Freed, G. L., & Clark, S. J. (2011). Fathers' depression related to positive and negative parenting behaviors with 1-year-old children. Pediatrics, 127(4), 612-618.

MacLennan, A., Wilson, D., & Taylor, A. (1996). The self-reported prevalence of postnatal depression. The Australian & New Zealand journal of obstetrics & gynaecology, 36(3), 313.

We are currently looking for mothers with a child under one year old to take part in the first phase of our research. All responses are completely confidential and anonymous. If you are interested in taking part please follow this link.

If you feel that you may be experiencing PND please speak to your Health Visitor or GP. Online support is available through the below organisations:

National Childbirth Trust (0300 330 0700) - practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.

PANDAS Foundation (0843 28 98 401) - support to people coping with Pre and Postnatal Mental Illnesses, as well as their families, friends and carers. 

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