From early on in the Covid-19 pandemic, the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) and Centre for Mental Health were concerned about the increased mental health challenges that women during and after pregnancy were likely facing as a result of the pandemic and government-imposed restrictions introduced to tackle it.
Thanks to Comic Relief ‘Covid Recovery’ funding, the MMHA commissioned the Centre to explore just how much of a challenge the pandemic has placed on perinatal mental health and the services that support women, their partners, and families during this time.
This report draws together all of the available data collected during the pandemic for the first time.
Together, we’re calling for:
1. Ministers to protect and enhance services supporting perinatal mental health, including voluntary sector groups
2. Relevant bodies to re-assess the true level of demand in light of the pandemic
3. Research to be commissioned on the pandemic’s ongoing impact, including for women and babies of colour, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Reflections from parents with lived experience
The evidence shows a significant decline in maternal mental health during the pandemic:
- The pandemic has posed mental health challenges for women during pregnancy and early motherhood
- The impact has been unequal
- Perinatal mental health services had worrying gaps even before the crisis
- Informal support has been detrimentally impacted
- Changes to labour and birth because of the pandemic have increased stress and anxiety
- Concern for infants and babies has increased stress and anxiety
- There have been missed opportunities for understanding / fully responding to what being classed as vulnerable really means in the perinatal period
- Whilst still awaiting data, significant concerns exist for women with pre-existing mental health conditions
- Despite the increased need, services supporting women and families were impacted detrimentally
- The workforce supporting women and families in the perinatal period is facing its own wellbeing challenges and needs support
- Increased demand for voluntary and community services, who themselves have been impacted
- Virtual contact massively increased with mixed potential consequences and a need for evaluation
Recommendations for action
The report commissioned by the MMHA and conducted by Centre for Mental Health makes the following eight urgent recommendations for action:
More information about the report
The three main activities of this rapid review of the evidence were:
- a literature review of the available published and unpublished/non-peer-reviewed literature
- verbal evidence-giving events, attended by parents with lived experience, clinical and voluntary sector representatives
- written submissions.
In addition, the Centre reviewed available public source national data on perinatal mental health services and conducted a survey of voluntary and community service providers.
An enormous thank you to the organisations who conducted and shared their research with us, the parents who spoke about their experiences, and all those working in perinatal services who have provided care and support to women and families during an extremely challenging time.
If you have questions about the research, please email us at email@example.com.