Maternal Emotional Health & Wellbeing

During pregnancy and in the first years after giving birth women can be affected by a number of emotional health & wellbeing issues. These can range from mild to moderate conditions, such as anxiety and depression, to more severe conditions, such as bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia and puerperal psychosis. These severe conditions often develop suddenly and are potentially life threatening (1).

Our Switch onto Employment service provides an example of how the community & voluntary sector can play an important part in supporting maternal emotional health & wellbeing.

Zara is a learner with our Switch onto Employment service (SOE), which provides support for young people aged 16-24 to move into further training, education or employment (click here for further information). SOE supported Zara throughout her pregnancy, putting in place support at an early stage to ensure she was able to access any help she needed. A flexible pathway was created for Zara to engage so that she could continue with her education.

However, shortly after Zara discovered she was pregnant, we were plummeted into a global pandemic, and she had to shield as she was seen as high risk. Zara could feel isolated at times, and due to the uncertainty of Covid was worried about what she could and couldn’t do.

SOE had the flexibility to continue supporting Zara online and rescheduled all her classes to ensure her learning continued. From day-to-day Zara wasn’t sure if she would be able to attend her classes. SOE maintained that level of flexibility and was supportive to her needs, whether it was moving class times or having a chat rather than class.

After the birth of her daughter, Zara’s classes were put on hold, though staff continued to have weekly check ins with her to make sure she was okay and to see if there were any additional supports she needed. This regular contact empowered Zara to start back to her face-to-face classes when she felt ready. As Zara says,

"Even though my pregnancy was during the COVID lockdown SOE were there for me to offer support via Zoom calls and WhatsApp calls. Even to the point of one of SOE’s staff going through the same experience as me and was willing to share her challenges and joys. SOE were exceptionally helpful considering it was lockdown. I returned to the office for classes a few months after my daughter was born, and SOE were very supportive in arranging times/days that suited my now busy schedule."

Zara has worked hard to keep progressing with her education and has achieved a lot in her time with us. Zara was recently shortlisted for the OCN NI Third Sector Learner of the Year award – a great achievement.

Further information on Maternal Emotional Health & Wellbeing:

Northern Ireland Maternity & Parenting

AWARE - Mood Matters Parent & Baby


(1) Dept. of Health Northern Ireland