Having a baby is a major turning point in life. Even if it’s not your first child, adding to your family involves lots of adjustments. It impacts the physical health of birthing mothers. And the implications to mental health can be significant too.
One in five women develop a mental health problem during pregnancy, or within a year of giving birth. A quarter of all maternal deaths, between six weeks and a year after childbirth, are related to mental health problems. In 40 percent of cases, improvements in care may have made a difference to the outcome.
Employers can do a lot to support pregnant women and new mothers through this transition. Workplace culture, policy and the healthcare package you provide, could make all the difference.
What we mean by maternal mental health
Maternal mental health refers to a woman’s wellbeing while pregnant and in the first few years after giving birth. It’s also known perinatal mental health.
According to the Maternal Mental Health Alliance:
‘This includes mental illness that existed before pregnancy, as well as illnesses that develop for the first time or are greatly exacerbated in the perinatal period.’Examples of perinatal mental health problems include antenatal and/or postnatal depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, postpartum psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These illnesses can be mild, moderate or severe, requiring different kinds of care or treatment.’
The cost to families and to society
Pregnant women are at a greater risk of developing mental health problems. These can have long-term implications, not just for the women and children concerned. The price paid by families, the NHS and society is high. Maternal mental illness costs society £8.1 billion for every one-year cohort of births in the UK. This is a conservative estimate.
The good news is that, with the right treatment, women can recover. And professionals agree on the services required. Unfortunately, access to treatment is not consistent. In some areas, maternal mental health care is world-class. But in half of the UK, women have no access to specialist perinatal mental healthcare.
What this means for your employees
Because the level of care isn’t consistent throughout the UK, prognosis and repercussions vary as well. You can redress this disparity for your employees.
When it comes to supporting mental health, there’s always a business case, as well as a duty of care. Poor mental health impacts employee wellbeing and physical health. This, in turn, affects their performance at work. If your people aren’t receiving the support they need, they can’t show up as the best employees they could be.
Women with parental responsibilities are more likely to quit their jobs than men with the same responsibilities. Women with new parental responsibilities and maternal mental health issues, are under more pressure. And many feel uncomfortable talking about women’s health issues in work.
Support maternal mental health to minimise absences, presenteeism, pleasanteeism and resignations.
How to support pregnant people and new mothers at work
Open the conversation
Get ahead of the issue. Check in with employees who are expecting babies. And don’t limit this to pregnant people. Support line managers to check in with everyone on their team regularly. Create safe routes for people to open up. If they trust you before fertility treatment, pregnancy and parenthood, they're more likely to share, if the time comes.
Support everyone involved in pregnancy, birth and new parenthood. This is the surest way to support maternal mental health. This means acknowledging that everyone has different needs.
Not everyone will feel comfortable sharing with their line manager, or HR. Have you made sure there’s a way they can get the help they need, easily and anonymously?
Nobody wants more red tape. Especially when dealing with prenatal appointments, baby preparations and strained mental health. So, offer convenient ways to seek help, book appointments and collect prescriptions.
Educate your workforce
Let people know that maternal mental health problems are common, and you’re there to support them. Reduce the stigma surrounding women’s health. You can do this by sharing resources and fostering open conversations.
You could begin a group for pregnant people and new parents. Women’s spaces may help some people feel at ease. LGBTQIA+ spaces might be better for others. Empower your employees to support themselves, and one another.
Our digital health solution contains a vast library of educational resources. It puts all the information people need at their fingertips. Using the Symbio app, they can learn about maternal mental health from a trusted source. They can also look up related topics, consult a GP and seek help from other professionals when they need it.
Provide holistic health support
We’ve already looked at the correlation between pregnancy and mental illness. Physical health and mental health are intrinsically linked. So, your workplace healthcare must take a holistic approach to wellbeing.
Lead the way on highlighting the link between physical and mental health. Make sure that workplace culture reflects and supports your wellbeing strategy.
Using multiple apps and platforms leads to lower employee engagement. You need a simple, complete solution.
Employees benefit from being able to:
- track their mental health, throughout their pregnancy
- educate themselves on wellbeing and wellness
- take self-guided therapeutic programmes
- book appointments with relevant health professionals on-demand
- talk via video, phone or anonymous chat, as preferred
Symbio provides all of this, on one intuitive platform. They can check in, mapping their personal wellbeing score, throughout pregnancy and parenthood. Learning as they go, empowers people to make better health decisions. Creating a personalised health pathway is easy and effective.
You can improve access to maternal mental healthcare, for your workforce. You can increase consistency of care and support people through a challenging transition. To maximise your impact, remember that everybody’s journey to parenthood is different. Provide a flexible, holistic support package. Empower people to meet their own needs, in a way that’s right for them.
To learn more about our comprehensive health platform, book a demo.