Depression, pregnancy, and domestic violence: a midwife perspective

Midwives are always there to support Mums, and care for their emotional needs.

As a midwife, I am lucky that I can be a part of the most special and intimate moments in a woman’s life. Getting to know a client and being part of their journey from conception to motherhood is a privilege. The role of the midwife is not only concerned with the unborn baby, but to care for the mother’s emotional needs. We care for a huge range of women, from all different backgrounds, and want to ensure the best possible experience for each person.

During appointments, your midwife may ask about your mental health, so as to identify the best pathway for your pregnancy to follow.

Pregnancy can be an exciting time, but can also be overwhelming and challenging. Building a trusting and open relationship with your midwife may help you feel able to share your feelings in a safe and non-judgemental environment.

Depression can be common during pregnancy, with up to 12% of women experiencing antenatal depression (Cochrane Review 2007) and 10–15% of women experiencing postnatal depression (Royal College of Psychiatrists 2014). Depression and anxiety have many triggers, one of which could be a traumatic event, or a series of events. Domestic abuse may be the underlying cause for depression and anxiety. A quarter of women will experience some level of domestic abuse during their lifetime. Domestic abuse can include coercive control emotional, sexual, physical or financial abuse, stalking, harassment or digital abuse. It is not limited to intimate partner relationships, and perpetrators can sometimes be other family members.

Media often portrays pregnancy as joyous, and for many it will be, however we also know that pregnancy can lead to the start of domestic abuse, or existing abuse may become exacerbated.

The ONS recently showed that of all reported crimes, around ten percent of these are related to domestic abuse (ONS 2016). Within London, there are nearly 200 cases per day of domestic violence that are reported. However, it is commonly noted that many survivors do not report the abuse, so these figures may not highlight the prevalence. Domestic abuse does not discriminate, and can affect people from all ethnicities, ages, cultures, religions.

Midwives understand how difficult it is for women to disclose abuse, and will always listen and take any reports seriously.

As a midwife, my priorities are caring for you and your family throughout the pregnancy journey, and supporting you as best I can. Women who disclose domestic abuse show tremendous courage, and will always be treated with respect and dignity by staff. GPs, Health Visitors and Midwives are all keen to help you feel safe and supported. There is a National Domestic Violence Helpline, which is free to call and operates 24 hours a day, the number is 0808 2000 247. Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs), who have links to many hospitals within London are also able to give advice and support. If you feel unsafe at home, the most important thing to remember is that help, advice and support is available.

Sophie Martin, midwife

Sophie Martin is a newly qualified midwife working at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Sophie previously worked as a Maternity Support Worker, before completing her training at King’s College London.