Tag Archives: Lived experience

Fatima’s story

“Explain more about what maternal mental health means because some people didn’t really care about their mental health until things started getting out of hand… I know most of us in our country, we don’t really care about mental health when you’re pregnant. So I think this is gonna be really helpful.”

In this series of audio clips, Fatima* shares how her living situation and a lack of respect for her autonomy impacted her maternal mental health as a newly single mother seeking asylum with a two-year-old and another baby on the way. Fatima also talks about her positive interactions with midwives, health visitors, and community support workers from Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) member organisation, Refugee Women Connect.

Please note: It is vital that we listen to the experiences of women and families from across our society if we are to ensure the system works for all. However, these stories can be difficult to hear and listener discretion is advised. If the contents of Fatima’s audio clips cause you to think of anything that has happened to you or someone you know and you feel upset, worried or uncomfortable, please see our support page for a list of services that may be able to help.

What maternal mental health difficulties did you face during and after pregnancy?

Read transcript
The main challenge I had when I was pregnant was low mood, anxiety and depression because at that time I wasn’t together with my husband. We just kind of reconciled for two days and that is how I ended up pregnant and it didn’t work out with us. So at that time, I was living in a hostel with mixed men and women, which is really not good.

It’s gonna affect you, especially if you’re not used to that kind of situation and you’re pregnant and living with strangers. So it really affected my mood because at that time I was always in the room, I didn’t want to come out because they always invite men like them in the kitchen like two, four, seven. So sometimes you couldn’t be able to get that comfortable to come out to cook something and be comfortable because there are always people. Busy men all the time, in and out of the building.

So, yeah, it was really not good for me at that time but I kept going and whenever I felt my mood was low I took my Quran and read. So yeah at that time I was trying to do some activities with my daughter because I was thinking, “She doesn’t deserve that, to live in that kind of situation.” That was the worst experience I have ever had in my life. I don’t wish anybody to live in the situation that I lived in at the hostel.

So even just that, without your issues with your partner, and at last you just end up living on your own with no family. So apart from that, just the situation that you are in the hostel is something else. I was pregnant and we got the bunk. My daughter was two years at that time and we got the bunk, like up and down. So she can’t slip off she has to sleep down so I had to sleep on the floor at that time and the room was really dirty, smell everywhere. Even just that it can affect you mentally. So the situation of the accommodation with a mix of ladies and men, it’s really something terrible to live in.

It really affects me. Even now, if I remember what happened at those times I have to just sit down crying. I mean like whenever I remember I just sit down crying and my daughter says, “Mummy what happened?” But I know she’s not gonna understand what was the reason for the crying that I was doing but I know the thing that I’ve been through, the situation was not… I don’t even wanna remember it because I wasn’t happy at all.

What did your midwife do to support you?

Read transcript
My midwife was really an amazing lady and she did really an amazing job, especially when it came to my appointments.

Because I’m a single mum with no family in the UK, I was just alone with my daughter at that time and pregnant with the unborn baby. I couldn’t attend my hospital appointments at that time because they were not allowing kids in the hospital, so it was really hard for me to cope with the situation but I’m glad my midwife saw this and stuck by me and always help me out by sometimes visiting me at home to do some check-ups. And also she spoke to the hospital to give me a suitable time that is a bit quiet so that I can come with my daughter to my appointment. So it was really helpful. She was always asking me about my mood and my mental health.

Yeah it was really helpful because I knew at that time I was really affected and I needed help but at that time I didn’t want to take any medicine you know. I didn’t want any medication I just trusted in my God that everything was going to be okay and whenever I read my Quran, I found it really helpful and, so yeah, so that is how I coped with my mental health issues.

Did you find your health visitor helpful?

Read transcript
Yes. The health visiting service to me was positive to be honest because I got to know each and everything that I was supposed to know and I had that support from them. They used to call me to check on me, to help me out with the school… everything. They were really trying hard to help me out because of the situation they found me in, so their service was really helpful.

My health visitor did a really good job. She knew what she was doing.

What other support were you offered in your community?

Read transcript
The service that was offered to me was the phone call from Refugee Women Connect. There were some ladies that used to call me to comfort me. I had three different people that used to call me – Anna, Julia and Sarah – at that time. They were always trying to make me comfortable and trying to help me out if there was anything that I needed or that I didn’t know. They were trying to explain to me and to help me out, so that phone call was really helpful.

And the other things that I used to do is whenever I felt in a low mood I would read my Quran and try to be optimistic, to just hope for the best and to see the future.

What are the main challenges facing pregnant asylum seekers?

Read transcript
When it comes to understanding English, to communicate and understand people and also to be able to express their feelings, their mood. When it comes to that, it’s really hard for them, especially for those who don’t speak English like even a little bit of English. It’s really hard. I can tell because I used to live together with them, so I can tell how stressed they were especially when they are trying to explain what is happening to them, what kind of help they really need. They really found it so hard to explain, to express their feelings and to make people have that patience to listen to them because sometimes when you don’t speak you know you don’t need to be perfect to express yourself but sometimes when people are trying to express themselves and some people they really found it so annoying to be able to concentrate and to give them that attention to listen to them.

So it’s really hard for the asylum-seeking pregnant women because they have a lot to say about their situation and maybe they are not feeling good in their mental health but they aren’t able to explain. Sometimes they don’t even have people that are going to have the patience to listen to them and what they were saying, to have that patience to concentrate and give them that chance to try to understand what they were saying because sometimes they are always like trying to use this translator to try to make people understand their circumstances, their feelings. But sometimes with the translator, people found it really stressful and really hard to just sit down waiting you have to use translator to type and get the answers or to use the translator to speak. Sometimes what you said is not the exact thing that the translator is going to say to tell the person that you are communicating with so it’s really stressful for them.

And also I can really remember one of the pregnant ladies I know in our hostel she got around six appointments from the hospital that she never got a chance to attend because of the language barrier. So I had to help her to reschedule the appointment and also let my midwife know about the lady’s situation so that she can help her to speak to the doctors and help her with the translator whenever she had that appointment to be able to understand each other. For the lady and the nurses the doctor to be able to communicate and understand what is her problems.

How can maternal mental health support for asylum seekers be improved?

Read transcript
What I can say needs to improve maternal mental health for pregnant asylum seekers is maybe to have people that they can speak to and explain. Explain more about what maternal mental health means because some people didn’t really care about their mental health until things start getting out of hand. So that is when they realise they’re gonna need help. So if like you just keep advocating and making people aware of what maternal mental health means it’s gonna be really helpful for especially asylum seekers.

I know most of us in our country, we don’t really care about mental health when you’re pregnant. So I think this is gonna be really helpful. And to provide the interpreter so that the asylum seekers can be able to explain their situation, to understand and to be understandable. That’s it, thank you so much.

How could you have been better supported with your mental health?

Read transcript
What I can say could have been done differently to support me is respect the decision that I made. It was really complicated when I was pregnant.

I really wanted to try to have a VBAC (vaginal delivery after c-section) because I had a c-section before. I didn’t really get that support and encouragement and the respect for my decision that I made. It’s normal you can try so I wish they allowed me to try because I just kept being told: “You can’t since you already had one c-section you’re gonna have the second one.”

It was really complicated at that time. People were not letting me decide what I wanted to do, they just rather say, “Okay this is what we think. This is what you’re gonna do”. At that time, I was alone I didn’t have that support to just keep going to make sure that I made it a ‘normal’ delivery but I couldn’t get that support and it really affected me. In the end, I had no choice because there were not a lot of people encouraging me to go ahead with my ‘normal’ delivery. Everybody was talking about c-section, c-section, c-section. I was really confused at that time I didn’t know what to do, I was just like, “Okay… I’m just gonna go ahead with the c-section”. But it was really not what I planned at that time. I couldn’t do anything. If I got that encouragement and support from them I know I could have been able to make it a normal delivery but this is what I can say… maybe if they did it differently they can be able to help me with my decision that I already made.

The MMHA is hugely grateful to Fatima for sharing her unique experience to help raise awareness of perinatal mental health in the refugee and asylum-seeking community, reduce stigma and influence positive system change. We would also like to thank Refugee Women Connect for facilitating this conversation and for everything they do to support refugee and asylum-seeking women in the UK.

Read more about maternal mental health in the refugee and asylum seeker community.


*To protect her anonymity, Fatima is a pseudonym.

New Healthwatch report finds perinatal mental health support is variable

A recent survey, conducted by Healthwatch England, of 1,738 women who had been affected by perinatal mental health problems highlights inconsistencies in support during pregnancy and after having a baby, despite national NICE guidelines.

In their most recent report ‘Mental health and the journey to parenthood’, Healthwatch outline their findings. Continue reading New Healthwatch report finds perinatal mental health support is variable

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. 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. Continue reading Marce 2018 – Global Experiences, Global Dialogues, Global Responses

Conference 2018: eye opening content and powerful personal stories

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance Conference 2018 was an inspirational event, filled with eye opening content and powerful personal stories from lived experience.

Delegates said the day offered fresh perspectives, new insights and lots of opportunities for expanding networks across the perinatal sector.

One delegate mentioned that she encountered ideas that she hadn’t considered before and took away lots of learning to help reach the ‘missing’ families in her area.

Lived experience was a key theme of the conference this year and our speakers’ personal stories created a real buzz in the hall and on social media.

“Powerful personal story from in breakout A. Moved us to tears #MMHAconf2018

“Wow! 58% of live births in London are to women born outside the UK #MMHAconf2018

“Humbling to hear from members of the learning disability parent network about being pregnant and having a baby when you have a learning disability.”

Self-confessed ‘Glam Geek and Proud Sikh’, and mental health campaigner DJ Neev Spencer was a firm favourite with the audience. She shared her own experience of PND before presenting the annual perinatal mental health awards .

Dr Laura Wood’s comments echoed many:

“Home from #MMHAConf2018 I’m inspired & encouraged. And I’m so thankful for our incredible community & for my place in it. You really have changed my life x”

Huge thanks to Katrina Jenkins for organising and co-presenting the awards with DJ Neev Spencer, and to Dr Alain Gregoire for keeping the day on track.


Missed any of the presentations? Check out full list here.


Come and share your ideas – show them on a poster at the MMHA conference

Come and be part of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance conferenceDiversity – understanding and reaching the missing families.” on 6th September, Imperial College London.

For the first time, this year we are inviting poster presentations from families who have lived experience of perinatal mental health difficulties, as well as academics, clinicians and service providers. We are particularly keen to see stories from families who have diverse experiences and backgrounds.

Posters need to be A2-sized and can use any medium to reflect your experiences: words, photography, images – whatever you need to get your experiences across.

Submit your poster by 20 August hereClick here for an easy guide to creating your poster presentation

In the growing field of perinatal mental health, there is a huge range of fantastic work happening around the country. Our poster presentations provide an opportunity to showcase your work and inspire others.

This year’s conference theme is “Diversity – understanding and reaching the missing families.” Topics covered include culture and migration, women with learning disabilities, women in the criminal justice system, military families, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families and more…

Winners of the 2018 Perinatal Mental Health Awards will also be announced at the Conference,  

Tickets available here.  Submit your poster idea here





Booking opens for the MMHA Conference 2018

MMHA Conference 2018: Diversity – understanding and reaching the missing families

6th September 2018
Imperial College, London

Registration has opened for the Maternal Mental Health Alliance Conference 2018 – the annual conference dedicated to providing stimulating debate and discussion on perinatal mental health. This year’s theme is Diversity – understanding and reaching the missing families.

From key note speakers and a series of break-out sessions, the conference will provide an overview of the latest research on families experiencing barriers in accessing perinatal mental health support. It is an opportunity to highlight women’s experience and bring together practitioners from health and social care services to discuss diversity and mental health problems. Continue reading Booking opens for the MMHA Conference 2018

Maternal Journal – how creative journaling can support pregnant women and new mothers, with a history of mild to moderate mental health problems

Laura Godfrey-Isaacs is an artist, community midwife at King’s College Hospital, London and  a project producer for Maternal Journal.

Maternal Journal was created by myself and psychiatrist Professor Carmine Pariante. It is an interdisciplinary collaborative project with Kings College London’s’ Department of Psychological Medicine & Department of Women’s Health, Ovalhouse and The Royal College of Art. Maternal Journal explores the therapeutic potential of journaling as a way to promote wellbeing and positive mental health for pregnant women and new mothers, who have a history of mild to moderate depression and/or anxiety.

Continue reading Maternal Journal – how creative journaling can support pregnant women and new mothers, with a history of mild to moderate mental health problems

I’m ready to thrive not just survive: Lindsay Robinson’s story

By Lindsay Robinson, mum, campaigner and advocate for maternal mental health

Lindsay is mum to Reuben and lives and works in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is dedicated to raising awareness of perinatal mental health and helping to improve support for all who struggle. She works with the Maternal Mental Health Alliance.

In September 2015 I was finally diagnosed with Postnatal Depression, two years after my son was born. I had experienced a long (undiagnosed) battle with the illness which made me severely ill – mentally, emotionally and physically. Having asked for help, twice, in the early months and not been treated, I then believed how I was feeling was my fault. I used to tell myself I’d “missed the mum gene”. Continue reading I’m ready to thrive not just survive: Lindsay Robinson’s story

Putting fathers in the picture


by Sharin Baldwin. Sharin is a trained nurse, midwife and health visitor and a keen advocate for health visiting. Her research interest is the mental health and wellbeing of fathers, an area that is fairly neglected. She is currently undertaking a PhD in this field at King’s College London and is the first health visitor to be awarded a Clinical Doctoral Fellowship by NIHR.

Fathers’ mental health and wellbeing has attracted more media attention is recent months but despite this there is very little support out there for new fathers. We know that as men become fathers they face many changes and new challenges, as women do, which can increase stress and have a negative impact on their mental wellbeing.

Continue reading Putting fathers in the picture

MABIM Masterclass 3 : Midwives and health visitors in perinatal mental health

What is it? This short report captures the key messages from our third masterclass event which was on the role of midwives and health visitors in perinatal mental health services.

What is it for? The document contains top tips from our expert speakers who work as midwives and health visitors within perinatal mental health.  The importance of the specialist role is included. It provides information and examples of how important the roles are within perinatal mental health and the way the specialist role can be valuable for the wider team.

How can it be used?  Commissioners, providers and clinicians can use the top tips to learn lessons from those who have experience in midwifery and health visiting and how these roles can be enhanced to provide specialist support in perinatal mental health care. Please tweet and share the report with anyone who might find it useful.