The Duchess of Cambridge has spoken with Kingston Hospital midwives, health visitors, parents and leading sector experts about the challenges and impact that COVID-19 is having on new and expectant mothers and their families ahead of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week [Monday 4th May – 10th May].
Run by the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership and established in 2017, UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week aims to create wider awareness of maternal mental health and signpost support for parents. Typically more than 1 in 10 women will experience a mental illness during pregnancy or in the first postnatal year, and around 7 in 10 will hide or underplay the severity of their illness.
Over the last fortnight The Duchess has heard from health and care staff about an increase in maternal anxiety and isolation as a result of the pandemic, with midwives, doctors, health visitors and clinicians urging mothers and families to speak up and ask for help when they need it.
Last week [Wednesday 22nd April] The Duchess spoke with midwives at Kingston Hospital, where she undertook two days of work experience last year. She heard about the ways in which the staff at Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust are ensuring that women continue to have the best possible support before, during and after birth.
She also spoke with new mother, Rebecca Attwood, on the maternity ward about her experience. She said: “Having a baby is an extraordinary experience at any time, but having one during lockdown and then having a surprise conversation with the Duchess of Cambridge after two hours’ sleep was particularly surreal! The Duchess asked us about having a baby at such an unusual time, and our experience on the maternity ward was that all the midwives made it as normal as possible – apart from the masks, it was exactly the same as when we had our first son Rafe, in 2015. The midwives at Kingston Hospital were amazing on both occasions.”
Jennifer Tshibamba, Midwife at Kingston Hospital, said: “I want women to know we’re still here, we’re still open. Even with what’s going on, we’re here to listen to you, we’re still here to make sure we provide you with the best care for your pregnancy, for your baby and support your family.”
Gina Brockwell, Director of Midwifery at Kingston Hospital said: “I am extremely proud of the team at Kingston for the way they have worked within the national guidelines to adapt their ways of working in recent weeks to ensure that we continue to provide outstanding care to all of the women and their families. I would like to thank each and every one in the team at Kingston for everything they are doing.”