All posts by Ines Meza-Mitcher

Final Mums and Babies in Mind project report published

This month the MMHA published the final report for our  Mums and Babies in Mind project (MABIM). The project supported local commissioners and providers to improve services and pathways for mums with perinatal mental health problems and their babies.

MABIM took a whole-system approach, working with professionals from a range of disciplines not only to improve services, but also to create local pathways and partnerships, which are essential to ensure that all women experiencing perinatal mental health problems get the right support at the right time.

The final project report describes the activity that took place through the MABIM project and its reach and impact. This is accompanied by a more detailed evaluation report produced by Professor Susan Ayers and her team at City University. Both reports demonstrate that MABIMwas very well received and seems to have resulted in positive changes to local services and care pathways. They contain useful messages about barriers and enablers to local progress in tackling perinatal mental illness.

You can view the final report here and the evaluation report here.

Marce 2018 – Global Experiences, Global Dialogues, Global Responses

Sally Hogg attended the Marce Society 2018 Biennial, to share learning and gain insights into global best practice in maternal mental health.

It was an absolute privilege to attend the International Marce Society Biennial meeting in Bangalore last week. The meeting brought together over 500 delegates from 31 countries to discuss the latest science and practice in protecting and promoting maternal mental health. I was there to share learning from the MMHA Mums and Babies in Mind Project, alongside trying to capture useful insights for those at home.

This was the first time that a Marce conference had been held in the Global South. The conference really opened my eyes to the challenges facing Low and Middle Income countries where the vast majority of the world’s babies are born, the prevalence of perinatal mental health problems is particularly high, and there are fewer resources to support families. The conference chair, Jane Fisher, powerfully reminded us that enabling mothers to be healthy is key to enabling children, and therefore societies and economies, to reach their full potential and thrive.

The conference was held in the National Institute for Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS) in Bangalore, which is a large mental health hospital and academic centre. NIMHANs has a 5 bedded Mother and Baby Unit, which is the only unit in a country where 26 million are babies born each year. The facilities were, in many ways, basic compared to the UK. But there was much that we could learn from them: The MBU had beds for a family member to stay with women (albeit only for female relatives – not dads or male partners). There was a strong multidisciplinary team including lactation support, which was particularly interesting to me, as we have recently done some work about the need to improve breastfeeding support and advice for mums with severe mental illness. NIMHANs hospital – including the MBU – incorporates yoga into the care they provide to patients. I was sorry that due to the full conference programme, I didn’t get a chance to learn more about the use of yoga.

It was a very full conference, with three long days of high quality presentations and discussions. As is often the case at events with many parallel sessions, it was hard to choose what to attend. I focussed on presentations which had clear implications for policy and practice, which meant I missed a lot of interesting stuff about the biological determinants and mechanisms of mental health problems.

So what were my highlights and take home messages from the presentations and symposiums I did attend?

I was challenged by a symposium chaired by Susan Ayers that really brought to life the complexities and limitations of screening.

I was excited by Jane Fisher’s launch of the new WHO nurturing framework which I think provides a useful way to talk about early child development with policy makers.

It was heartening to see that the UK is one of the countries that is leading the way in the provision of specialist community and inpatient services. Our campaigning is inspiring others too – we heard about maternal mental health alliances developing in Canada and Africa and of people considering how to replicate our powerful maps of provision, and there was regular use of the #everyonesbusiness message.

I was encouraged to hear about how services were being designed with implementation and scaleability in mind: Maria Muzik discussed the co-production of the MomPower intervention, and Heather Rowe described research with parents, providers and policy makers to inform the development of support for new parents.

Birth trauma was a recurring theme in the conference. As Evita Fernadez described in a plenary, “the way in which we give birth has major implications for women’s future health and that of their babies” and yet there is a “crisis in childbirth” with many women experiencing traumatic births in India and around the world. Evita spoke encouragingly of the tide starting to turn thanks to powerful campaigns to harness womens’ voices and to global recognition of women’s rights to respect, support and choice in their birth, by organisations such as the World Health Organisation. In another plenary, Jon Cox prize winner Bryanne Barnett called on professionals to gain an in-depth understanding of the current and past experiences of women, including recognising and respond to both the physical and mental harms that result from traumatic birth. In a great symposium on birth trauma, Susan Ayers discussed evidence that positive support during birth can buffer against stressful events, whereas a lack of support or interpersonal difficulties increase risk of PTSD. Pauline Slade presented the Straw-b self-help tool which contains information and psychological exercises for women at risk of PTSD. And, in perhaps the most surprising study of the conference, Antje Horsch, showed that women who play tetris for 15 minutes in the 6 hours following an emergency c section are less likely to develop PTSD (which is thought to be because visuo-spatial tasks can change the way in which therefore reduce the likelihood of intrusive memories.)

Whilst the conference showcased a wealth of fantastic practice, we were constantly reminded that the majority of women in the world who are experiencing perinatal mental health problems are not getting support. It wasn’t all doom and gloom however. There were a number of examples of innovations which could enable more women to access evidence based support: Atif Rahman shared the evidence of the impact of the Thinking Healthy (CBT based) intervention which has had a proven impact on women’s mental health in LMIC countries when delivered by community health workers or peer supporters.

Cerith Waters shared how his stretched service in Wales had developed a Perinatal Play and Development group, which enabled the service to have more contact with women. The 6 week group includes mindfulness, psychoeducation and elements of watch, wait and wonder.

Finally, a number of speakers from Australia, including Jeannette Milgrom and Jane Fisher showcased digital interventions which could drastically improve the reach of services. We were reminded that 63% of the population in low and middle income countries have a smart phone (something that was clearly on show when out and about in Bangalore!).Siobhan Loughnan shared positive results from use of a short, three session perinatal iCBT intervention called MUMentum, which can be used as self-help or as an adjunct to face-to-face support. Jeannette and Jane spoke about  the Mumspace website, which hosts a range of universal, targeted and specialist interventions (including the Baby Steps, Mind Mum MumMood Booster apps) and the What Were We Thinking intervention, which helps parents to learn about caring for their baby (including crying, soothing and sleep) and about their journey as parents  (including their relationship) through a group based seminar for parents, website, app and moderated peer-to-peer blog, all supported by a training programme for maternal and child health nurses (equivalents of our health visitors)  .

There were some things missing from the conference. The audience was largely health professionals or academics. I felt that the input of community or charitable organisations was missing, and I didn’t see much on place-based and whole system approaches.

But overall it was a fantastic three days. I left feeling that although there is a huge amount to do, but there is lots of valuable work to learn from, and in the UK we are privileged to have opportunities to put this learning into practice.

Applications now open for MMHA’s first board of trustees

Members of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance have recently agreed for the MMHA to register as an independent charity, and we are pleased to announce that we are now recruiting our first board of trustees.

We hope to receive applications from a wide range of people interested in serving as trustees, including individuals directly involved in perinatal mental health work or those with other skills that we are looking for.

Continue reading Applications now open for MMHA’s first board of trustees

Perinatal Mental Health in Wales Project – surveys to complete

NSPCC Cymru/Wales, The National Centre for Mental Health and Mind Cymru have joined forces to work together on a project which investigates perinatal mental health services in Wales.

Over the next year, they will be working together to map out what services are available across statutory and voluntary sectors in Wales for women experiencing perinatal mental health difficulties, and explore what it is like for women and their partners in Wales to live with, and manage these types of illnesses.

To help them do this they have launched online surveys, They would like to hear from midwives, health visitors, mental health teams who are practising in Wales and third sector organisations who provide perinatal mental health support to women. The link to this survey can be found here.

They would also like to hear from women and their partners (18+) affected by perinatal mental health problems (diagnosed or undiagnosed) in Wales. The link to this survey can be found here.

National infant mental health week: 12-16 June

This week, 200 organisations will come together to highlight infant mental health week. The theme of the week is ‘Begin Before Birth’, which emphasises supporting a healthy pregnancy experience for expectant parents as a key opportunity to ensuring the best possible start in life for every child.

By the time a child turns three years old, the foundations for all learning and relationships will have been formed, with their brain development during this time critical to future success at school and in life. The 2.4 million babies who will be born in the UK before 2020 represent our future leaders, thinkers and innovators – it is vitally important we give them strong foundations right from the start, with everyday physical and emotional experiences they have with parents, families, caregivers and communities contributing a crucial part of those foundations.

Key areas of pregnancy which continue to require future support are supporting the relationship between couples, improved antenatal assessment and classes and improved workplace culture.

Alain Gregoire, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, says: “The Maternal Mental Health Alliance welcomes the focus on pregnancy for this year’s Infant Mental Health Awareness Week. It is so important for us all to understand the sensitivity of the baby, both during pregnancy and after, to relationships in the family and to the mother’s mental wellbeing.”

Further information can be found on the web and social media pages below.


1001 Critical Days Manifesto

Building great Britons –


Invitation to tender – perinatal mental health peer support

Comic Relief, in partnership with the MMHA, are currently undertaking a tender process to commission the development of a set of quality assurance principles for peer support in perinatal mental health. This forms part of Comic Relief’s Maternal Mental Health Strategy.

We are interested in bids from individuals or organisations and from partnerships of interested bodies who can demonstrate expertise and experience of quality assurance theory and concepts and their application in voluntary and community sector environments.. The link to the invitation to tender can be found here, and the deadline for applications is 5 July 2017.

We hope that the development of bespoke Quality Assurance principles will assure the quality and consistency of online and face-to-face peer support in perinatal mental health. They will also form a key part of wider work to ensure such peer support is safe, accessible to all, high quality, evidence-based, trusted by clinical services and achieves maximum impact. We envision that the development of these principles will be delivered by 2018.

Download the invitation to tender

Please forward your application, or any questions regarding the tender, to Inés Meza-Mitcher, Membership and Communications Assistant for the MMHA (