As the country moves into Covid recovery, we are still looking at the impacts of the pandemic and lockdowns on our mental health. There are many awareness days in May, so it’s a busy time for organisations in the voluntary sector. Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the month of May is Maternal Mental Health month. We will be writing on this subject throughout the month.

Cornwall VSF has a partnership with Public Health, Cornwall. We have a public health Community Engagement Officer. Sarah will be working with partners to present a Cornwall-specific overview of this topic.

Why do we have Maternal Mental Health month?

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) states that more than one in 10 women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year of having a baby. This figure rises to over 50% of women under 18. Despite a national decline in teenage pregnancies, Cornwall still has above average numbers. Regardless of age, around 7 in 10 women hide or downplay their illness. Younger women report this being fear of having their baby taken away.

What support is there for women with perinatal mental health?

Raising awareness of the inequalities faced by women is the main focus of the MMHA. Here in Cornwall, there is a good partnership between the voluntary sector and Cornwall Council. Together for Families provides targeted interventions for women suffering poor perinatal health. Their breastfeeding support is a volunteer led.

Mind has some detailed information about perinatal mental health and the MMHA have step by step intervention. You can find a wealth of resources to share on the website.

What is perinatal health?

Peri is Latin for ‘around’ and natal means birth. Women may experience poor mental health from pregnancy onwards. So, despite the preconception that post-partum depression is the main mental health complication, it can start as soon as women become pregnant.

Is there support for their families?

One area of maternal mental health that is overlooked often is its impacts on the wider family. Locally, Wild Young Parents have increased the support for dads. The DadPad team developed DadPad with the NHS and dads. We are fortunate to have Man Down in Cornwall too. Together for Families and our membership work together to target interventions for young people. Gwealan Tops have a dad and kids breakfast club. Cornwall has a strong sector for mental health support for female wives and partners of women with perinatal depression. Our Charity Search Tool segments organisations by their specialism.