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  • Writer's pictureDr Kirsten Wooff

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Guide (MaMA)

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

Conversation starters to check in with a new mother.

Research suggests that 15-20% of mothers will experience mental health difficulties post-partum in New Zealand. Our maternal suicide rate is five times higher than the United Kingdom and is a leading cause of maternal death in New Zealand. It is believed that every year thousands of women in New Zealand experience antenatal and/or postpartum mental health difficulties and don’t know that they have.

Unfortunately, an area of health care in New Zealand that is particularly under-resourced is maternal mental health care. Yet this is one of the most important areas where change can be made, not only for new mothers but for the generations they raise. There is a wealth of research supporting the link between maternal mental health post-partum, child attachment, and then the child’s later psychopathology (for example they are more at risk of experiencing anxiety and depression themselves later in life).

As a mum of two and most recently giving birth in February this year I saw the lack of mental health support available for women post-partum. Even more so, I noticed that there are little resources available to educate support people of the new mothers. As a clinical psychologist I know that disclosing how you feel and sharing your emotions with people you trust can make a world of difference to someone. Therefore, while there is a lack of professional mental health support out there for new mothers, this “early intervention” of talking to a loved one may start the process of seeking help before getting to a clinically significant level of mental health distress post-partum.

Therefore, I have developed a free resource for support people (partners, whanau, friends, etc.) of new mothers, which contains conversation starters to get people asking the right questions to find out how new mothers are really doing. Quite often new mothers will be asked “how are you going” in the first few minutes which is easily glided over and the real difficulties are missed. This resource provides conversation starters and topics of discussion to normalise a mother's experiences and emotions with the aim to get them talking to their loved ones. This resource also contains signs a mother may be struggling, how to support a new mother's mental health, and where to seek more help.

Please share this resource as widely as you like. Remember to respect a mum's wishes if she does not want to talk.

To speak to one of our team about maternal mental health, GET IN TOUCH HERE.

Conversation starters to check in with a new mother.

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