This week is Black Maternal Mental Health Week in the UK [25th Sept – 1st Oct], an annual event dedicated to raising awareness about the mental health challenges faced by Black mothers.
Black Maternal Mental Health Week aims to promote education, advocacy, and support for Black women during their pregnancy and postpartum journey. By shedding light on the unique mental health disparities experienced by this community, the week-long campaign strives to foster understanding and drive positive change in maternal healthcare practices.
Black mothers are disproportionately affected by cultural barriers that hinder their access to mental health care. The Mental Health Foundation has found a clear difference in outcomes for Black mothers in their perinatal experience compared to many other mothers across the UK. Mental health stigma and feeling judged and unheard are common barriers faced by Black mothers during pregnancy and early parenthood.
Getting support does not always feel like a realistic option for mothers. One-fifth of Black mothers reported they didn’t visit healthcare professionals to talk about their low mood and depression. In the UK, ethnic minority groups are more likely to present with mental health problems, while their mental health needs are less likely to be detected.
Good mental health is particularly important when we also consider figures from earlier this year that showed the risk of maternal death is almost four times higher among women from Black ethnic minority backgrounds compared with White women in the UK. These figures from MBRRACE-UK, a collaboration involving the University of Leicester, were released in Spring this year, where researchers called for a move towards more inclusive care.
The MBRRACE-UK collaboration (Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries), led from Oxford Population Health’s National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, looked at data on women who died during, or up to six weeks after, pregnancy between 2019 and 2021 in the UK. The report’s figures also suggested women from Asian backgrounds also continued to be at higher risk than White women and that women living in the most deprived areas had a higher maternal mortality rate than women living in the least deprived areas.
The MBRRACE-UK report followed a recent call in the Women and Equalities Committee Black Maternal Health report for more rapid publication of data.
All of this highlights why a continued focus on Black maternal mental health is needed.
Look out for what’s happening during #BMMHW23 and register for events here.