#BeyondBabyBlues: New mothers suffering in silence with mental health worries

Released on: 19 November 2015

NCT launches its #BeyondBabyBlues campaign which aims to encourage people to talk more openly about maternal mental health,

Half of new mothers are concerned about their mental health and many are suffering in silence, according to new research released today by NCT as it launches its #BeyondBabyBlues campaign supported by celebrities. 

 The UK’s largest charity for parents also says that almost one in five (18%) callers to their helpline had a mental health issue to discuss and over a third (35%) had not spoken to a healthcare professional about it. 

 The #BeyondBabyBlues campaign aims to encourage people to talk more openly about maternal mental health, to avoid the mistake of dismissing potentially serious mental health issues in themselves, friends or family and to seek help. NCT is asking people to show their support for the campaign and for each other on social media by sharing pictures of themselves linking hands with someone else, or even with themselves, under the hashtag #BeyondBabyBlues. 

 Some women are affected by the ‘baby blues’ which can leave mums feeling emotional, irritable and depressed within the first few days or weeks after giving birth. This is thought to be triggered by hormonal, psychological and social changes associated with childbirth, but the feelings of low mood typically reduce after a few days. If symptoms persist or worsen, begin at a later stage, or even in pregnancy, it can be something more serious such as antenatal depression, postnatal depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. However there’s a danger this can be dismissed as the ‘baby blues’, therefore many mums don’t seek help. 

 NCT’s new research¹ found 50% of mothers were still worried about feeling low or depressed when their babies were eight months old and almost three quarters (73%) of fathers were concerned about their partner’s mental health. 

 Research² by the charity last year found a staggering lack of support services for mothers’ mental health. NCT is calling for further funding from central Government for improved services for women’s mental health during pregnancy and early parenthood and better access to support and treatment. The charity is also calling on the Government to name and shame Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) who don’t have a maternal mental health strategy in place and hold them to account. 

 Dr Sarah McMullen, Head of Research, NCT, said: 

“We know many women’s mental health can be affected during pregnancy or in the early weeks and months of motherhood and a lot find it incredibly hard to talk about how they're feeling and also worry about not being a good enough mum. It's really important they know they're not alone and feel supported at this crucial time in their lives. Our #BeyondBabyBlues campaign is asking everyone to be more open about maternal mental health, to take it more seriously and to ask for help. 

 “We are very concerned that over a third of mothers who called our helpline about their mental health are suffering in silence and have not spoken to a health professional about it. There currently isn’t enough support for new mothers and much more investment is needed to provide support services and train enough GPs, midwives and health visitors to recognise vulnerable new mums and give them the help they need by offering treatment options and referral if necessary. Early intervention could prevent devastating problems later down the line.” 

 NCT’s #BeyondBabyBlues campaign is being supported by celebrities including comedian Jo Brand, a former psychiatric nurse and Coronation Street actress Jennie McAlpine, a patron of Mood Swings (a mental health charity). 

 Jo Brand said: 

“The time before and after giving birth can be really stressful for women. For many of us, it is not the straightforward, happy time we associate with the arrival of a new baby. This is why it’s essential for new mothers to have the right support at the right time. NCT’s research shows a huge number of mums are affected in some way by perinatal mental health issues and it’s no laughing matter. NCT’s longstanding experience and investment in research means they are an essential part of the fabric of childbirth in the UK from education to support and campaigning for improved services. This is why I’m supporting their #BeyondBabyBlues campaign.” 

 Jennie McAlpine said: 

“Since becoming a mother myself, I know just what an amazing job mums do. I'm in awe of all of us! I can also see that so much more needs to be done to support mums whose mental health is suffering, for their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families. If you need help - please ask someone. I’ve seen myself how support can make all the difference.” 

For more information about the campaign visit: https://www.nct.org.uk/beyond-baby-blues

 ¹ During 2013-2014, NCT’s Research and Evaluation Department conducted a mixed-methods longitudinal research study of first-time mothers’ and fathers’ experiences and attitudes during the first two years following the birth of their baby. To understand more about life as a new first-time parent, NCT invited men and women to complete online questionnaires at two time-points: one during their baby’s first year (6-9 months), the other one year later (18-21 months), following eight focus groups to inform the survey design. In total, 869 first-time mothers and 296 first-time fathers responded in full to the first questionnaire when their babies were on average eight months old. 

 ² Research by the charity last year found that 29% of women said their GP did not ask them about any emotional or mental health issues in their six week postnatal check-up. Shockingly only 3% of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’S) had a perinatal mental health strategy in place and over half (54%) of NHS trusts said they did not provide any perinatal mental health services at all. 

 The helpline figures are based on 903 calls to NCT’s Postnatal helpline between 2010 and 2015.