Hidden Epidemic of Maternal Mental Illness

Our recent survey has uncovered that alarmingly four in ten mums suffer frightening thoughts or hallucinations after giving birth – but keep quiet for fear of being judged or having their baby taken away. Official NHS figures show just 10 to 15 per cent of mums experience serious mental health issues, but experts believe there could be a ‘hidden epidemic’ of maternal mental illness, as 64 per cent of those who fall ill never try to get a formal diagnosis so are missed by official figures.The study of 1,670 mums found 65 per cent of those who experienced the awful thoughts weren’t told pregnancy and parenthood could affect their mental health. As a result, one in five feared they were ‘going mad’ when they fell ill, while 49 per cent were scared of being ‘judged negatively’.

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Our founder Siobhan Freegard said:

“If your body is broken after birth, everyone understands and supports you, but when your mind is broken, mums still feel they have to keep it hidden. These thoughts are disturbing and terrifying – but very often they are part of becoming a mum. We need to talk about it, normalise it and make mums realise they are not alone.”

More results from our new survey on Mums’ Mental Health

An alarmingly high number of you admitted you had experienced the unsettling thoughts. A fear that something dreadful will happen to your baby is the most common, with 62 per cent of those who suffered the hallucinations vividly feeling this. Forty-four per cent worried about their baby dying, 13 per cent imagined killing or harming their own child while one in 100 were convinced their mother-in-law was trying to take their baby.
The study also found others had visions of their baby being taken by strangers, eaten by a crocodile or snatched by the Grim Reaper.
Worryingly, 39 per cent felt their child and partner would be better off without them and 16 per cent even considered suicide.
Others worried they would be labelled a bad parent (43%) while 26 per cent were ‘ashamed’ of being mentally ill.
The stigma is so great that a disturbing 17 per cent of mums who fell ill admit they thought about self-harm to try to cope, with one in 20 going through with it but 19 per cent of mums who suffered mental illness after birth refused to access help in case their child was taken into care.

Siobhan Freegard said:

“I suffered from post natal depression and visualised extreme images after the birth of my first child then tried to cover it up, so I know exactly what women are going through when they hide it. There is so much pressure to cope and be the perfect parent that when you are crying inside while everyone around you is smiling, it makes you feel you are failing your baby and your whole family. Mums need to know they will get the right support and their baby won’t be taken away.”

Our psychologist Emma Kenny added:

“Good maternal mental health is something that every woman deserves, but due to the lack of knowledge and support this simply isn’t the case, leaving women to deal with some of the most terrifying and debilitating feelings at a time when they should be enjoying their positive new beginnings.”

Some of the Extreme Thoughts Mothers Have Experienced

“I believed my baby hated me and was trying to kill me”
“I planned to jump off the balcony with my baby”
“I thought my flat was haunted and would stay outside from dawn til dusk until my husband got home”
“I thought my baby would die if I didn’t wash up before my microwave pinged”
“I saw the Grim Reaper outside my bedroom door”
“I thought my twins weren’t mine”
“I thought that my mother in law was planning to take my baby”
“I thought that my baby would die because of germs. So I made everyone disinfect themselves before they could touch him. Someone touched my pram in a supermarket once and I couldn’t move due to fear of contamination. I stood in the cleaning isle vigorously disinfecting my pram.”
“I believed if I went to sleep, someone would break in and smother us all to death”
“I wanted to throw my daughter out of the window”
“I thought a crocodile was trying to eat my baby”
“I wanted to drive the car into a wall and kill my baby and myself”
“I cut all my hair off as I thought my baby was eating it and making himself ill”
“I thought everyone would be better off without me”
“I imagined an iron melting into my baby’s face”
“Just blackness, despair like being trapped in thick mud”

Chat on Channel Mum Chat to other mums and professionals in the Channel Mum Support Group.

Take our Mum’s Mental Health Course

Read more about the Channel Mum research in these publications

The Sun Logo
MUM’S THE WORD New mums share the heartbreaking and terrifying thoughts they’ve had since becoming a parent

The Independent Logo
Half of all Mothers Suffer from Hallucinations or Frightening Thoughts

The Mail Logo
Almost HALF of new mothers suffer from frightening thoughts or hallucinations – and two thirds admit to hiding them for fear of being judged.

Vlog Of The Week: Grief When You Least Expect It

We’re getting really excited for Christmas now, but it’s always a time of year when we stop and reflect on the most important things in life and appreciate what we have. But that’s also means at this time of year it’s hard not to look back and miss the loved ones who are no longer with us.

This week’s Vlog Of The Week is by Helpful Mum, Grief When You Least Expect It. She talks about being struck down with grief for her grandma, out of the blue and how raw her emotions have been lately around the anniversary of her grandma’s birthday.

It’s at occasions like anniversaries or Christmas that grief, however new or old, can really become overwhelming, and partly because it’s not something we’re always comfortable discussing. Often we don’t want to burden people with grief which can feel so intense.

Helpful Mum, Sian,  has been very brave opening up about her grief and talking about a topic which we all can relate to, but seldom speak about. We’re sure many can empathise with what she’s saying, especially at this time of year.

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For more videos from Helpful Mum please check out her vlogger page here.

You can watch more videos about support and coping at Christmas here.

Looking for vlogmas content? Make sure you check out our vlogmas topic page.

We’d love to hear your suggestions for our next Vlog of The Week too, simply send us a tweet @ChannelMum using #CMVlogoftheWeek with your suggestions!

Find out more about our Vlog Of The Week series here. 

And don’t forget to check out our previous Vlogs Of The Week here:

Vlog Of The Week: Why Didn’t We See It?

Every week we highlight a vlog that we think deserves to be seen by more people, whether it’s something that has made us feel warm and fuzzy, laugh out loud or blub into our coffees.

This week’s Vlog Of The Week is from Jess from 2.2 Children & A Dog. In her ‘Why Didn’t We See It?’ vlog Jess tackles a very important issue; anxiety. She talks about her son’s experiences with anxiety and how she gradually spotted the signs that he was suffering from this condition.

Her video is so honest and so heartbreaking at times that once we finished watching, her words remained with us for a long time after. It’s such a delicate issue having a child with anxiety, and it has the potential to cause real problems in daily life. What’s more, her candid account of how it has made her feel as a mum, and the measures the family is taking to improve things, are really enlightening.

Jess’s openness and honesty will be extremely helpful for other parents who suspect their child of suffering from anxiety, which is why it’s our well deserved Vlog Of The Week. All too often we don’t discuss the things that worry us or upset us, and hearing Jess describe the symptoms and issues around anxiety can only help to demystify this condition and help others in a similar situation.

Watch Jess’s vlog below:

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Check out Jess’s vlogger page here to watch more of her content.

We’d love to hear your suggestions for our next Vlog of The Week, just remember, they have to be plugged into the Channel Mum website and have been published in the last four weeks. Simply send us a tweet @ChannelMum using #CMVlogoftheWeek with your suggestions!

Find out more about our Vlog Of The Week series here. 

And don’t forget to check out our previous Vlogs Of The Week here:

Vlog Of The Week