Healthy Mind

Record numbers of new mothers are seeking postpartum mental health support – but is care going far enough? Here’s what to know

Emma Harpham, Editor  |   7 May 2024

As parents, we’ll all experience the postpartum period differently, and it’s a time that can absolutely take a toll on our mental wellbeing.

Mental health is top of mind every day here at TRB, not just in the month of May. This said, we wanted to take this time to acknowledge the recent surge in the numbers of women seeking specific, postpartum mental health support in 2024.

Postpartum mental health can be complex and multi-layered, and we’ve seen a lot of questions floating around online about the standard of care, whether it is going far enough to meet our needs as parents, and how to navigate when seeking support.

Here’s what we know.

seeking postpartum mental health problems

How common are postpartum mental health problems?

The answer is, as we’ll unpack below: pretty common.  

It is thought that around one in seven women will develop postpartum depression (PPD), also known more commonly as postnatal depression (PND) in the UK. That’s according to fresh data from 2022. 

Buoyed by celebrities like Kylie Jenner, and, most recently, Halle Bailey, speaking out about their experiences, awareness of postpartum depression and other conditions are on the up right now.

When it comes to postpartum anxiety, some estimates suggest that the rates in the US are as high as one in every two women. Post-traumatic Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are also reported in postpartum women.

And although much less common, the American Clinic of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) estimate that postpartum psychosis, a serious condition that should be treated as a medical emergency, could occur in one to three out of every 1,000 births.

Note – If you or your partner are experiencing symptoms of postpartum psychosis, seek emergency medical care right away.

Can dads get postpartum depression too?

Postpartum depression and other mental health issues can also impact dads and partners

Recent research tells us that PPD or PND is estimated to affect between 8 and 13% of fathers – and partners are more likely to experience symptoms if their female partners also have postnatal depression.

can dads get postpartum depression too

Can you have postpartum depression after a miscarriage?

Postpartum depression can also happen after pregnancy loss, too.

According to the MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health in the US, miscarriage can lead to similar hormonal shifts that women experience post-birth.

And on top of this, as those of us on team TRB who’ve been there know all too well, a baby loss is an intensely difficult time of life that comes with feelings of heavy distress and heartbreak.

The growing demand for postpartum mental health support

So, knowing all of this, what’s the state of postpartum mental health care, in 2024?

We know that after having a baby, mothers go through a whole lot of changes that can really affect how they feel. 

It’s not just hormones – although those play a big role. And in 2024, worrying about money with a new little one around and dealing with stressful world and life events, paired with greater awareness and self-advocacy, might be leading more women to seek help.

seeking postpartum mental health support

In England, recent data from the NHS shows that more than 57,000 new and expectant mothers received mental health treatment in 2023 – which compared to the year before, is up by one-third. That’s a lot.

And whilst all new mums are offered a comprehensive mental and physical check-up from their GP – six weeks in – in the UK, specific screening for postnatal depression is currently not recommended across the board, as a result of a 2019 government review.

In the US, some screening is recommended through specific questionnaires like the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, with OBGYNs and paediatricians forming the first line of support for most women. 

But even so, it is thought that this doesn’t go far enough, and 50% of women with postpartum depression still go undiagnosed and without support.

Further, racial disparities in maternal health care play a role in both the US and the UK, leaving black mothers and other communities of color at a higher risk of being unable to access support for postpartum health issues.

Navigating the chasm of care 

More research, looking beyond the basic screenings, and ensuring continuity and equality in care are all things that could improve postpartum mental health support – both in the US maternity care deserts and in the UK national health system.

Some of the latest developments are promising. For example, there’s a third-trimester blood test in the works that can flag two biomarkers associated with postpartum depression, allowing doctors to predict the condition with 80% accuracy. A lift in digital mental health services and apps is also improving access, right now. 

But as parents, our postpartum mental health journeys are not a number or a statistic – they’re real and valid. And we simply shouldn’t have to suffer in silence, while we wait for the system to catch up.

advocating for postpartum mental health care

Here’s how you can support yourself

Here are our top pointers for looking after yourself, whilst you’re finding the right kind of postpartum mental health support.

  • Get in the know, and advocate. Learn about postpartum mental health, with a view to better understanding and advocating for your experiences with healthcare providers. This can look like writing out a list of questions or symptoms before you book an appointment, or bookmarking resources like this one.
  • Seek support. You don’t have to go it alone – it’s so true that sometimes, it really does take a village. Rally your in-person support network. 
  • Find community. Whether it’s in person or online, join a support group to connect with other parents. Our Instagram DMs are always open, if you’ve got any questions, or just to vent.

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