General Election 2024

Making perinatal mental health a priority for the next government

The next general election could be announced any day. It's crucial that we work together to make sure the mental health needs of new and expectant mothers and their families is on the political agenda. Perinatal mental health has only been mentioned in a handful of party manifestos over the past four elections despite the far-reaching and serious consequences of failing to provide appropriate care.

Why is maternal mental health important?
  • At least 1 in 5 women experience a mental health problem during pregnancy and after birth (known as the perinatal period).
  • Suicide is the leading cause of maternal death six weeks to a year after birth.
  • Untreated, maternal mental illness costs ~£8.1bn each year in the UK, or an average of £190m a year for an average-sized integrated care system.
  • Black and minority ethnic women, young mothers and those facing domestic abuse, poverty or multiple disadvantages continue to experience poorer outcomes.
Find out more about maternal mental health
The current landscape

Despite its prevalence and devastating human and economic consequences, mental health still does not receive anywhere near the same level of attention or investment as physical health during and after pregnancy.

In the last 10 years, thanks to national investment and commitment, there has been welcome progress in the availability of specialist perinatal mental health services for women with the most severe and complex issues. However, there is no routinely funded provision for women with more common maternal mental health problems (such as depression and anxiety), and families still face a postcode lottery trying to access care across statutory and voluntary sector services.

In addition, some women face additional barriers to accessing care. Trauma, stigma, discrimination and isolation can act as barriers, meaning women who are in most need of care are those who have the most difficulty accessing it.

  • Data suggests that postnatal depression and anxiety are 13% higher in Black and brown mothers than in white mothers.
  • 93% of health visitors have reported seeing an increase in the number of families affected by poverty.
  • 78% of health visitors are reporting an increase in maternal mental health problems
Learn more about the perinatal mental health landscape

But there is a real story of hope and potential here.

With the right support, women do recover. There is a vital opportunity in the next election to create positive change for current and future generations.

Given pregnancy and after birth is the time in someone’s life when they have the most contact with health services, it is the ideal opportunity to ensure mental health support is treated as an essential element of pre- and postnatal care.

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) is calling for all political parties to demonstrate their support for the mental health of new and expectant mothers by supporting the following ask:

The MMHA ask

New and expectant mothers’ mental health must be valued as much as their physical health, this means making sure mental health is sensitively discussed at every contact they have with a health professional.

Download briefing for more detail
  1. How you can support this work
    1. Parliamentarians
      • Ask your political party to include the Maternal Mental Health Alliance’s ask in your election manifesto.
      • Meet with the MMHA to further discuss the issues facing women and families. If your office contacts, we will schedule a time at your earliest convenience.
      • Spread the word on social media tagging @MMHalliance and using #MMHAmanifesto.
    2. MMHA members
      • Please use our template letter/email to communicate with parliamentarians and political contacts to demonstrate your support for the MMHA’s headline ask.
      • Ask to meet with parliamentarians and invite a member of the MMHA team to join you, to discuss the mental health needs of women, babies, and families.
      • Share your experiences about how these issues have affected your organisation and/or your local services.
      • Spread the word on social media tagging @MMHalliance and using #MMHAmanifesto.
    3. Supporters and healthcare professionals
      • Ask to meet with your MP to discuss the mental health needs of women, babies and families. If you would like to invite a member of the MMHA team to join you we’d be happy to support you.
      • If you feel comfortable, please include in your communication with your MP your experiences about how these issues have affected you / those you meet in your role / your local services to demonstrate why this is something that matters in your local area.
      • Spread the word on social media tagging @MMHAlliance and #MMHAmanifesto.