You may have heard of awareness markers for mental health such as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, but did you know there is a World Maternal Mental Health Day? A day to raise awareness, change attitudes to reduce stigma, and influence policies about maternal mental health, World Maternal Mental Health Day takes place on May 3, 2023. This day recognizing significant mental health concerns for birthing people and families is fairly new. In fact, a group of stakeholders began to plan for the first World Maternal Mental Health Day in 2015. Since then, this day has been held on the first Wednesday of every May, close to both Mother’s Day and Mental Health Week.
World Maternal Mental Health Day takes place on May 3, 2023.
Maternal mental health conditions are a leading cause of death
With the growing mental health issues, this day of recognition is needed more than ever. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 10 percent of pregnant women and 13 percent of women who gave birth suffer from a mental health disorder, mainly depression, across the world. The stats are higher in developing nations: 15.6 percent of women experience a mental health disorder during pregnancy and 19.8 percent after birth. In the United States, the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths is mental health conditions at 23 percent. Mental health conditions include deaths from suicide and overdose/poisoning related to substance use disorder.
In Ohio, mental health conditions were the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths at 16 percent from 2008-2018. Within mental health conditions, substance use disorders account for much of the pregnancy-related deaths. In an article about pregnancy-associated deaths, more women and birthing people experienced overdose than suicide in Ohio. Specifically, accidental overdose accounted for 5,466 years of life loss whereas suicide was noted for 1,579 years of life loss. Years of life loss is calculated by subtracting the age of someone’s death from the normal life expectancy. It is significant that sometimes substance use disorders and mental health disorders are co-morbidities. Hence, medical professionals should holistically examine patients who are either pregnant or postpartum and refer them to person-centered care resources.
In Ohio, mental health conditions were the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths at 16 percent from 2008-2018.
Global resources on maternal mental health
Various organizations from across the world partake in the Maternal Mental Health Task Force—such as Center of Perinatal Excellence, Postpartum Support International, and Postpartum Support Network—are using this day to raise awareness about maternal mental health issues so that women and birthing people will receive treatment. Many events will happen throughout May that will acknowledge the mental health of mothers and birthing people. This includes a webinar about postpartum psychosis and a virtual summit to understand emotions in parenthood. Moreover, the Maternal Mental Health Taskforce has a petition for the World Health Assembly and UN World Health Organization to officially acknowledge World Maternal Mental Health Day and to be commemorated yearly on the first Wednesday of May.
Even though World Maternal Health Day only happens once a year, there are many resources to learn about and combat these problems year-round:
- Upcoming Maternal Mental Health Conference in 2023
- Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health
- National Maternal Mental Health Hotline
Mothers and birthing people are expected to be superheroes for their families, but they are not immune to mental health conditions. It is imperative to combat and raise awareness for this population, and World Maternal Mental Health Day is one of the ways to do so.