Ask pregnant women and new mums about their mental health, says new study

Posted By: Toni Woodman

24th April 2024

  • Report
  • Research

1 minute read

Suicide remains a leading cause of maternal death in the UK (MBRRACE, 2023).

The newly published ASPEN study, conducted by researchers from King’s College London, explores the experiences of women and birthing people who had a suicide attempt in the perinatal period. The aim was to understand the context and contributing factors that led to these near misses and identify key themes which could be used to open discussion with pregnant women, birthing people, and new parents.

We hope the findings from this study will lead to increased awareness and support during the perinatal period and help prevent future maternal suicides.

Dr Abigail Easter, Reader in Perinatal Mental Health at King’s College London

Three central themes were identified:

  1. Trauma and adversities, where women started their pregnancy journeys with existing challenges
  2. Disillusionment with motherhood, covering the various challenges brought by pregnancy, birth and motherhood
  3. Entrapment and despair, marked by feelings of failure, hopelessness and losing control.
Read more about the ASPEN study

The response from the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA)

Karen Middleton, MMHA Head of Campaigns and Policy, says: “This unique research demonstrates the critical importance of healthcare professionals discussing mental health with new and expectant mothers. Every contact is a chance for sensitive enquiry and to create positive change by ensuring those who need it get compassionate, potentially lifesaving support. The clear recommendations from ASPEN and MBRRACE and the welcome inclusion of pregnant women and new mothers within the recent National Suicide Prevention Strategy provide an opportunity for collective action and targeted interventions, which we hope will save women’s lives."

Sharing the findings

The MMHA was honoured to host a webinar with the ASPEN team, clinicians, and experts by experience on Thursday 25 April to share the study’s findings and discuss what it means for policy and clinical practice.

Interest in the event was overwhelmingly encouraging. A recording will be available here soon for anyone who couldn't join us.

Follow us on X, LinkedIn or Instagram for updates.

Improving future perinatal mental healthcare

With a general election imminent, the MMHA is calling on political parties to take action and ensure all women are asked about their mental health. This means the next Government needs to equip universal services, such as maternity and health visiting, to provide high-quality and compassionate health care, provide sustainable funding for specialist perinatal mental health services and address current inequities in access to treatment.

More about the MMHA’s campaign

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