There could be a long-lasting impact on the future health, wellbeing and life chances of babies born during the pandemic, as parents face heightened stress, social isolation and mental health problems.
Between April 2020 and January 2021 our helpline received 3,608 contacts from adults about parental mental health. The monthly average has increased by 44% compared with last year 1
Well before the pandemic, reductions in public health spending on early years and a significant decline in health visitors meant many families were not getting the help they need. Without the right support at the right time, mental health problems during pregnancy and the first year can have serious consequences for both children and families. Now we’re calling on the Government to prioritise parents and babies in the nation’s recovery. Join the fight with us.
"A friend of mine has been struggling with depression ever since she gave birth to her son, who is now two years-old. I didn’t think anything of it at first, I assumed her depression was just a phase, but then I realised just how much it was impacting her life. “Some days she’s barely able to function, like she can barely get out of bed. What concerns me most is her little one is often left to fend for himself – her ex is long out of the picture and she doesn’t get any kind of support."
An adult who called our helpline
Social distancing measures have meant that many fathers and partners have been excluded from scans and many women have given birth without a partner or supporter present. As well as parents and babies being isolated from the support of family and friends over the past year, up to 50% of health visitors were redeployed away from supporting families in some areas during the first lockdown.2
This has had an unprecedented impact on pregnancy, child birth and the start of a child’s life.
A survey undertaken during the pandemic by Parent-Infant Foundation, Best Beginnings and Home Start found:
- 6 in 10 new parents shared significant concerns about their mental health because of the additional stress caused by COVID
- a third of parents reported that interaction with their child had changed
- just over 1 in 10 parents of children under 2 saw a health visitor face-to-face. 3
Restricted access to these crucial services could result in mental health problems in pregnancy and the first year going under the radar of professionals, making it harder for parents to provide the care a baby needs to develop.