BBC announces new Louis Theroux documentary on new mums and mental health

‘Mothers on the Edge’ will shine a light on postpartum mental health and explore how women can be given the best support at the time they need it the most.

(Image courtesy of BBC)

Pregnancy and motherhood are often hailed as the happiest time in a woman's life, but it can also be a time of extreme stress and psychiatric difficulty. In the UK, around one in five new mums will experience mental health issues before their child’s first birthday, many for the first time in their lives. This can include antenatal and postnatal depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and postpartum psychosis. With the right help, women can recover from these illnesses.

During the one-hour documentary, award-winning filmmaker Louis Theroux meets women with a range of conditions – including depression, anxiety and psychosis – often triggered by birth or the strains of motherhood. He spends time in two specialist psychiatric units, where mothers live together with their babies while undergoing treatment. 

As he follows the women and their families, both in hospital and recovering back at home, Theroux explores what lies behind their recent crisis and discovers the immense challenge in caring for two people in the most vulnerable state of their lives.

Speaking about the show, he says: ‘I’m always looking for stories that combine deeply stark human emotions with complicated decisions, and these often exist in the world of mental illness. Postpartum mental illness, like many aspects of mental health, is all too common and not acknowledged enough. It seemed to me to be a story we could do justice to.’

At Tommy’s, we encourage women to speak about their mental health and wellbeing during and after pregnancy. Kate Pinney, Tommy’s midwifery manager, urges anyone who is concerned about their partner’s mental health to seek help. She adds: ‘Postpartum psychosis is a rare but a very serious illness and is often unpredictable.

"Whether you are pregnant or have had your baby, it is so important to talk to your midwife or GP about how you are feeling and if you notice any changes in mood or emotions. Most postpartum psychosis sufferers do not recognise that they’re unwell and because the illness is often unpredictable it can also be difficult for partners, family and friends to recognise. If you have any worries or doubts about you or your partner’s mental health, then it’s important to seek help and talk to health professionals as soon as possible."

Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, says: ‘This thought-provoking documentary is sure to open up a conversation about one of the most challenging periods of any parent’s life and puts a spotlight on an issue that remains largely unspoken about in today’s society.’

Mothers on the Edge will air on BBC Two at 9pm on 12 May 2019.  

Find our more about postpartum psychosis 

Will I be able to breastfeed if I’m on medication 

Mental health before, during and after pregnancy