6 May 2020
More than half (51%) of mums in the UK say that the Covid-19 lockdown has had a negative impact on their mental health, a survey carried out for Maternal Mental Health Day shows - but most are embracing the traditional stiff upper lip, with two thirds not seeking help (67%).
The survey from women’s health brand Elvie shows that mums find lockdown is “challenging” (65%), “stressful” (51%) and “isolating” (33%). On top of lockdown stresses, many pregnant women and new mums are dealing with pelvic floor issues that can affect their confidence and mental wellbeing.
In response, Tommy’s and Elvie are launching #TheBigSqueeze campaign to support virtual maternal mental health services. Women are asked to take part in a nationwide pelvic floor workout, snap a photo of themselves mid-squeeze then share their ‘squelfie’ to nominate friends, and donate on the JustGiving page.
While the memes will have us believe that everyone’s baking banana bread and becoming a TikTok star, mums are turning to exercise for help. 46% are turning to physical exercise, 38% are getting support from others on social media or video calls, and 19% are meditating. So for mums looking for an emotional and physical boost, #TheBigSqueeze offers a fun five-minute pelvic floor workout designed by PT to the stars Rosie Stockwell.
Want to get involved? Here’s how it works:
Nominate your pals – After you’ve completed the five-minute workout, nominate 5 friends by sharing your “squelfie” (your face ‘mid-squeeze’)
Donate to Tommy’s – Give what you can on the campaign fundraising page to help Tommy’s provide mental health support through the pandemic and beyond
Elvie’s CEO and founder Tania Boler commented: "We might be in lockdown, but it doesn’t mean we have to feel emotionally isolated. That’s why I’ll be joining #TheBigSqueeze this Friday to do my kegels with a bunch of like-minded women and raise money for the vitally important work Tommy’s does to deliver virtual mental health support."
Tommy’s midwifery manager Kate Marsh added: "Pregnancy and the transition to parenthood can be challenging at the best of times, and lockdown is creating extra anxiety for some. We're hearing from many expectant and new parents who are unclear which services are still running and where they can turn for help in the wake of coronavirus.
"We really urge women to seek help for both physical and mental health concerns during pregnancy and after birth. Midwives, GPs and health visitors are still available and working to support families in the current lockdown. It’s also important that any new mums who experience leaking talk to their GP about getting support from a women’s health physio - these symptoms are very common, but not something to put up with long term."
Tova Leigh, performer and influencer who’s backing #TheBigSqueeze, said: "We’re calling on women and their vaginas everywhere to take part in this wonderful new campaign. I’m all about being open and honest about women and motherhood. No one should suffer in silence and I can’t wait to bring everyone together this Friday!"
Elvie will match donations made on the JustGiving page in the first 48 hours, up to £5,000 - and if the campaign hits £10,000 in total, we can keep Tommy’s midwives going for the next three months to help ensure women receive the mental health support they need.
To support women's mental health and wellbeing before and after birth, Tommy's created Your Baby's Mum which offers a step-by-step guide to help expectant and new mums care for themselves as well as their babies.
In this Q&A, we sit down and chat with with Tom Willmott, a researcher based at Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre in Manchester. He gives a rare insight into a novel and exciting area of pregnancy health research, known as ‘maternal microbiology’, looking at what we can learn by studying bacteria in the mouths of mums-to-be.
A recently published article, co-authored by Professor Catherine Williamson from Tommy’s Research Centre at King’s College London, suggests that certain pregnancy complications can indicate future health issues for women.
Tommy’s has received a grant from the UK Government’s Department for Health and Social Care to support the costs of its PregnancyHub information and support services throughout the summer, due to rising demand in the wake of coronavirus.
Although recruitment to some clinical trials had to be paused when coronavirus hit the UK, scientists at Tommy’s Research Centres across the UK are still hard at work, supporting women and families in our specialist clinics and sharing their latest studies with academic journals.