Supporting Black and Black Mixed-Heritage women’s mental health

Our Tommy’s Midwife, Alanna, discusses Black Maternal Mental Health Week, and the support available to Black women and birthing people.
By Tommy's Midwife, Alanna


Hello, I’m Alanna, a Tommy’s Midwife. I’ve been working with Tommy’s for 15 months now, and I’ve always been fascinated by the pregnancy journey and the amazing things women’s bodies can do. I’ve loved providing continuity of care, and supporting women and pregnant people through pregnancy, no matter what their journey.

Pregnancy and becoming a parent are beautiful experiences, but they can also be incredibly complex and challenging. It’s important to recognise that mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, are not uncommon during this period, affecting up to 1 in 5 women and birthing people.

For Black and Black Mixed-Heritage women and birthing people, these challenges can be even more pronounced due to historical trauma, racial discrimination, and socioeconomic disparities and limited access to culturally competent care. That’s why we’re actively supporting Black Maternal Mental Health Week 2023, organised by The Motherhood Group.

If you’re feeling anxious or worried about the negative statistics and disparities you may be facing, it’s essential not to let that anxiety stop you from getting the support and care you deserve during your pregnancy and after the birth of your baby. There is absolutely no shame in talking about uncertainty or fear and looking for help. Midwives want you to feel comfortable discussing your feelings and concerns and are there to help you.

Support services for Black and Black Mixed-Heritage women

Support before, during, and after pregnancy is crucial for your overall wellbeing. At Tommy’s, we’ve heard from many individuals who, for various reasons, don’t feel they’re getting the support they need.

Whether you’re dealing with existing mental health issues or facing them for the first-time during pregnancy, there are no rules about how stressed or anxious you must be before talking to your midwife or GP.

You can reach out to a healthcare professional at any time if you have concerns. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you can receive the right support, if needed.

Some hospitals are now offering antenatal classes specifically tailored to Black and Black Mixed-Heritage women and birthing people. These classes can prepare you for your baby’s birth, boost your confidence, and improve your mental and physical well-being by providing a safe space to connect with healthcare professionals and others who share similar experiences. I encourage you to ask your midwife or hospital about the availability of such classes.

The role of specialist midwives

Specialist midwives play a vital role in providing expert midwifery care to those with additional support needs. Specialist Mental Health Midwives can help you with perinatal mental health issues and make sure you get the care and support you need during pregnancy and the postnatal period. You can ask your named midwife for a referral to these specialists.

Cultural Safety Midwives are experts in supporting individuals with various protected characteristics, such as race, sex, sexuality, gender identity, and disability. Their role is to ensure that maternity services become more culturally aware and inclusive. Ask your hospital if they have a cultural safety midwife you can see.

If you’re not sure about your birth choices, a Birth Choices Midwife can give non-judgmental advice, discuss your options, and help you make informed decisions based on your preferences and medical recommendations. Speak to your named midwife if you’d like the opportunity to talk to a Birth Choices Midwife

Rainbow Midwives are there to support those who are pregnant after one or more pregnancy losses, such as miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death. Being pregnant again after a loss can be an emotional and anxious time and a Rainbow Midwife can guide you through appointments, help with your birth plan, give reassurance and connect you with more support if you need it.

Talk to someone

Talking about how you’re feeling with your family and friends can be a huge help and getting to know other parents can be a lifesaver too once your baby is born. You can share the woes of parenthood and laugh at the not-so-funny aspects of being a mum or being pregnant.

If you’re not yet ready to talk to those closest to you, remember that your maternal mental health matters, and we’re here to help. At Tommy’s, we offer a Specialist Support Helpline for Black and Black Mixed-Heritage women and birthing people. It’s a non-urgent service to give you the time and space to discuss your feelings with a Tommy’s Midwife. We welcome calls about mental health so if you need to talk or if you’re worried because you’re not feeling yourself, get in touch.

We’ve also pulled together a list of supportive communities and organisations that cater specifically to Black and Black Mixed-Heritage women and birthing people that are there to help. Some have online forums and local support groups where you can connect with others, share your feelings, and build your support network.

We also have a wealth of information about mental health before, during, and after pregnancy, including information for you if you are planning a pregnancy with a serious mental illness.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and there is support to help you through every step of your pregnancy and beyond. Your wellbeing matters, and we’re here to make sure that you get the care and support you deserve.