Maternal mental health: What support is available?

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Following research from LSE and the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, we chatted with pregnancy and postpartum psychotherapist, Sophie Harris, to learn more about the support available for new and expectant mums

Maternal mental health: What support is available?

Research conducted last year by the London School of Economics and Political Science, commissioned by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, revealed the devastating impact that perinatal mental health problems have on women and their families when not effectively treated. What’s more, the former 2014 report calculated that perinatal mental illness costs the UK £8.1 billion annually.

Since 2014, the UK has invested in specialist services provided by the NHS to transform the lives of expectant women with complex mental health problems and their babies. As welcome as these findings may be, more action is now required to see that women and their families receive the quality of care that they need

Whilst improvements have been made, access to perinatal mental health services is still a challenge. The report highlights the long waiting lists for mental health services, including those provided through the NHS Talking Therapies programme (previously known as 'Improving Access to Psychological Therapies' or IAPT). Not only this, but many of the services are unable to meet pregnancy and parenting-specific needs. This means some women don’t accept referrals, miss appointments or are dissatisfied with their treatment.

With more maternal mental health problems being identified as a result of the pandemic, now has never been a more important time to ensure services can respond to increasing demands and are fit for purpose.

The outcomes from the LSE report propose a better integration of perinatal health services, such as maternity and health visiting, with primary mental health services. The collaborative efforts will help address maternal wellbeing and support the early developmental needs of children. This, coupled with identifying women in need and facilitating access to treatment, will have a clinically cost-effective role in society.

We chatted to pregnancy and postpartum cognitive behavioural therapist, Sophie Harris to find out more.

Do you find the findings from the 2014 report surprising?

“Absolutely not,” Sophie says. “Not only are the impacts of maternal mental health difficulties felt by the mother, but also of their child, and potentially even their children. At the moment, there are a lot of unsupported mothers who are struggling. Unfortunately, our children feel our stress. Untreated mental health conditions will have a huge social, emotional and financial impact both on the needs of the mother and child and wider society.”

Do you welcome this research?

“Yes. I believe that any research that highlights the need for maternal mental health support is positive. However, it requires significant action for the impact of these findings to be shown in the outcomes of care for our mothers who are struggling.

“There appears to be a large-scale underestimation of the mental health needs of new mums. For example, the NHS website states that one

Do you have tinnitus? Here’s how to recognise your triggers and reclaim control

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Ringing, whistling, humming, buzzing – we often talk about the physical side of the hearing condition tinnitus, but it can take its toll on our wellbeing, too. Here, Emmie Harrison-West reflects on her own story, and explores the management tools that work for her and others

Do you have tinnitus? Here’s how to recognise your triggers and reclaim control

I remember hearing it for the first time, that ringing noise. It came to me in the dark, when I was in my late teens. It sounded like the screeching, erratic tones of dial-up broadband. Or like someone keeping their finger pressed on the doorbell deep inside my head – and there was no way to stop it. It would come and go. Sometimes I’d hear a rush of high-pitched ringing throughout the day, but it was worse at night.

Until my early 20s, I was constantly anxious and on edge before bed. Sometimes, I dreaded going to sleep in case I had a flare-up. When it happened, I’d spend hours staring at the ceiling, wishing for it (whatever it was) to disappear again. I suffered for it during the day. Felt drained, emotional, and tearful.Stress only made it worse; it was a truly vicious cycle.

Turns out that noise, deep in my ears, was tinnitus, and I joined the one in eight adults in the UK who suffer from it.

“Tinnitus is the name for hearing noises in your ears or head that are not caused by an outside source,” Franki Oliver, audiology adviser at the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) told me. “It’s often described as ‘ringing in the ears’, but some people describe it as hissing, humming, buzzing, or whooshing.”

Do you have tinnitus? Here’s how to recognise your triggers and reclaim control

“Imagine hearing an unwanted sound all day,” Carly Sygrove, coach and hearing loss blogger told me. “Perhaps it’s the high-pitched whirring of the fridge, or maybe it’s a noisy neighbour playing music throughout the day. Like these scenarios, tinnitus is an intrusive sound, and there’s no way of turning it off.”

Two years ago, aged 27, I was diagnosed with hearing loss and tinnitus, one of a reported 12 million deaf people in the UK. I realised my hearing wasn’t quite right when I couldn’t understand people who wore masks – it was only then that it dawned on me how much I relied on lip-reading.

“Many people wrongly assume that it is their tinnitus, rather than their hearing loss, that is causing hearing difficulties,” Nic Wray, communications manager at British Tinnitus Association told me. They added that the causes of tinnitus are still ‘not fully understood,’ but could be triggered by exposure to loud noise, ear infections, wax build-up,’ and even Covid-19, or long Covid.

At first, thinking it was a wax build-up, I sought help from an audiologist who soon diagnosed me with mild nerve deafness. It was genetic, but likely exacerbated by listening to loud music through ear buds, or going to loud concerts growing up.

According to Duncan Collet-Fenson, audiologist at Aston Hearing: “We can all experience temporary tinnitus when we spend the evening at a l

What does it take to be happy at work?

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New research uncovers the happiest (and unhappiest) industries to work in based on these key factors

What does it take to be happy at work?

Being happy at work is something many of us strive for. We spend a lot of time at work, so anything that can help us enjoy this time is welcome. Knowing what it takes to feel happy at work can help us on this mission as we figure out what’s working, and what’s not working for us at work.

Recently, SEO company Reboot Online surveyed 2,500 professionals from 29 different industries to find out which industry had the happiest workers. To determine their happiness, Reboot Online took seven factors into consideration, leading to an overall job happiness score for each industry.

The industry that scored the highest happiness score was science and pharmaceuticals (91.93), followed by creative arts and design (83.81), and then environment and agriculture (80.96). On the other end of the spectrum, energy and utilities scored the lowest (9.50), with sales (10.49), and call centre/customer service (11.91) not far behind.

So, what factors were looked into when creating this happiness score, and how can we use these as signposts to our own job satisfaction?

1. Positive impact on others

Considering the impact your work has on others and knowing that impact is positive can go a long way in helping us feel content at work. If this is something you’re unsure of right now, you might want to explore the idea of job crafting, where you can use certain tools to help your job ‘fit’ better with your values. Learn more about what job crafting entails and how it could help you find more meaning in your work.

2. Career prospects

For a lot of us, knowing there is some forward motion in our careers is key. An easy first step here could be to use your imagination.

“Find your imagination and create a vision of your ideal career,” says career coach and author Tessa Armstrong. “By allowing yourself to imagine your ideal career, you will give yourself the best chance of achieving the best career for you.”

Read more of Tessa’s advice on progressing in your career when you’re feeling lost.

3. Employee empowerment

Feeling empowered at work can help us feel in control not only of our days but also of our careers. Ways we might feel empowered include having ownership of certain projects, being trusted with our own schedule/time, and knowing our voices are heard and listened to.

If this feels like something you’re missing in your work, try speaking to your manager to find ways you can take on more ownership in your role, gain some autonomy and feel more empowered.

4. Work relationships

If relationships at work are strained, it can really take its toll on our sense of happiness. We may not always be able to be best buds with everyone we work with, but there are steps we can take to improve these relationships. Not sure where to start? Take a look at executive coach Aaron Jude McCarthy’s thoughts on improving workplace relationships.

What is intergenerational trauma and how can we break the cycle?

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Intergenerational trauma can feel like an unrelenting trap, but it’s time to break free

What is intergenerational trauma and how can we break the cycle?

The generations who raised us invariably have a huge impact on our lives, and the people that we become. As adults, we may find a lot of joy in noticing that we have adopted, for example, our mother’s sense of humour, our grandfather’s agreeableness, or our aunt’s passion. But there’s another side to this coin.

There’s a saying you might have heard of: ‘Hurt people hurt people.’ It’s a very simplistic way of talking about the way that one person’s pain can, often completely unintentionally, affect others. And when it comes to the way this manifests in family relationships, it turns into a well-documented psychological phenomenon.

“Intergenerational trauma is defined as trauma that is transferred from one generation of trauma survivors on to the second, and further generations, through genetics and experiences,” counsellor Melanie Kirk says. “This means that even though the original trauma may not have been experienced first-hand, the feelings, symptoms, and behaviours can live on.”

What is intergenerational trauma and how can we break the cycle?

The trauma can be personal, – for example, the parent might have experienced abuse, been the victim of a serious crime, or have suffered loss or bereavement. Or, the trauma could be shared – Melanie points to the example of Holocaust survivors.

“In 2015, a psychiatry and neuroscience professor called Dr Rachel Yehuda directed a team of researchers, and conducted a study on the descendants of Holocaust survivors,” she explains. “It was discovered that the descendants had low levels of cortisol (the hormone that is released during times of stress, which helps to bring down the high levels of adrenaline released when a ‘fight or flight’ response is triggered).

“It was concluded that if one parent has experienced PTSD then future generations may be more likely to inherit the gene adaptation caused by a traumatic event. This in turn could result in the descendant being more susceptible to conditions such as depression and anxiety. Comparable studies were also carried out on the survivors and descendants of 9/11, which revealed similar results.”

What does intergenerational trauma look like?

In the same way that trauma will present differently from person to person, intergenerational trauma does, too. It’s a complex experience, and one that is best explored with the help of a mental health professional. That said, there are common themes.

Besides the genetic impact that Melanie previously explained, if the parent has experienced the trauma, it may affect the way that they interact with their child – they may find it more difficult to regulate their emotions, or to model appropriate coping behaviours to their children. In practice, this may look like a reduced tolerance to stress – perhaps finding they become overwhelmed or angry quickly – or they may find it more challenging to express love and affection. All this may then affect their children’s behaviour and coping mechanisms, and the way they go on to parent, or treat the

Cost of living: the impact on children’s physical and mental health

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With almost one-quarter of parents of children under the age of 11 claiming that the cost of living has had a detrimental effect on their mental health, we take a further look and highlight some available support

Cost of living: the impact on children’s physical and mental health

Findings from a recent Save the Children/YouGov survey, covered by iNews show how rising living costs are impacting children in the UK physically and mentally. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of the parents surveyed say they are worried about their children’s mental health and one-fifth (17%) of those parents claim their children are suffering from physical health problems. Children living in households with an income of £30,000 or less are the worst affected, with 37% of parents saying their children’s mental health has been affected.

The online survey of 2,008 parents of children aged 11 and under highlighted some of the concerns parents are coming up against due to increased financial pressures. To cut back, parents are finding it difficult to keep up with days out and after-school clubs. And soaring household bills mean parents are buying cheaper food options with less variety. It also means families are living in colder, poorer conditions. This is negatively impacting the overall wellbeing of children; they are more likely to suffer from an increased number of colds and experience reduced sleep quality, for example.

The same survey revealed how parents are even turning down work or are being forced to cut working hours due to expensive childcare. Over half (54%) of mothers have cut their hours because they can’t afford to pay for childcare.

Becca Lyon, head of child poverty at Save the Children UK is calling on the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, to take action at tomorrow’s Spring Budget, urging the government to provide further support for struggling families.

“Parents are trying everything they can to put their children first, skipping their own meals, going without heating and their own essentials, but it’s clear families feel their young ones are suffering in such tough financial times.

“Jeremy Hunt should increase child-related benefits, alongside introducing childcare reforms that will support parents back into work.”