World Maternal Mental Health Day

One in five new mothers worldwide suffers from some form of mood or anxiety disorder during the perinatal period

Pregnant woman illustration

More than 75% of these mothers are undiagnosed and do not receive adequate treatment and support. It is therefore essential to improve support for women’s mental health during and after pregnancy worldwide – Image: Shutterstock

By the editorial team – Since 2016, a multidisciplinary group of international maternal mental health activists, academics, clinicians and people with lived experience have come together once a year to raise awareness of this issue and demand maternal mental health services for all. World Maternal Mental Health Day is celebrated on the first Wednesday of May, but has yet to become an official ‘United Nations International Day’. In order to raise the profile of the initiative and make the issue more visible, we invite you to sign the petition calling on the World Health Assembly and the UN World Health Organization to officially recognize World Maternal Mental Health Day (WMMH Day).

WMMH aims to highlight the importance of maternal and family mental health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in its report ‘World Mental Health Report: Transforming mental health for all‘, 25% of pregnant women experience some form of mental distress and one in five mothers will experience a mental health problem during the perinatal period and up to a year following birth. These figures highlight the importance of addressing maternal mental health in a comprehensive and proactive way. Globally, maternal mental health problems are considered a major public health challenge.

Throughout the world, the majority of caregiving is provided by women, however, despite being essential, their endeavour is typically undervalued by society. Many women are working on a double or even a triple shift, and mothers tend to face stigma and excessive demands that may have a negative impact on their quality of life and mental health.

Gender roles and inequalities are a breeding ground for mental disorders. All too often, however, the only short-term response to the problem is psychotropic medication, which contributes to the medicalisation of a problem that is rooted in social inequalities.

Social justice and a gender perspective are fundamental to addressing maternal mental health. Social and gender inequalities affect mothers’ access to quality mental health services and their ability to seek the help they need.

Global and national policies should recognize and address these inequalities. We should ensure that all mothers, regardless of their origin or social background, have equal access to appropriate mental health services.

As part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is an urgent need to address the issue of maternal mental health. Goal 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, includes a specific target to reduce maternal mortality and improve access to health care.

In conclusion, World Maternal Mental Health Day is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of supporting maternal mental health from an intersectional perspective. Women living in contexts of heightened vulnerability, such as armed conflict, poverty and addiction, face multiple stigmas and additional barriers to accessing services. This is a clear human rights violation.

Communities recognize that it is essential to act in favour of social justice, gender mainstreaming and global sustainable development policies, which is why they must also endeavour to ensure that all mothers receive the support and care they deserve and need.