Mental Health

Healthy Pregnancies: Midwives Need to Talk About Mental Illness

In the upcoming Nordic Midwifery Congress next week one of the subjects is health during pregnancy. I’m a Swedish midwifery student and I’m privileged to take part of the congress this year with Girls’ Globe. I think that good health during pregnancy is a human right. All pregnant women have the right to a healthy pregnancy and as a midwife-to-be, I believe that I have an important job to help pregnant women become and stay healthy.

The International Confederation of Midwives’ (ICM) vision is a world where every pregnant woman has access to a midwife’s care, for herself and for her newborn. ICM ‘s mission includes keeping birth normal, and for me that means a healthy pregnancy –  without complications during pregnancy or labor, including the spontaneous start of labor, and with the outcome being a healthy mother and a healthy child. As a midwife it will also be my mission to help pregnant women to keep birth normal – to be aware of any symptoms and to have an open communication, so that women can trust me and tell me if anything is wrong.

When it comes to unhealthy pregnancies, mental illness is an often overlooked factor. According to World Health Organization (WHO), mental illness affects 10% of all pregnant women and 13% of women who recently gave birth. Mental illness during pregnancy leads to the same symptoms as when not pregnant. Fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, attention deficit and anxiety are some common symptoms. My experience as a midwifery student is that we don’t talk about mental illness enough. It is common, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. I think my job as a midwife will involve raising awareness of mental illness and to create an environment where we can talk about it openly. I hope to enable pregnant women to feel that I’m there and can listen to them and comfort them. Sometimes it may help just to talk about it, and in other cases there is help available. All women face the risk of developing mental illness during pregnancy, and it is important that this information reaches all pregnant women and their families. I think that if midwives talk about it, pregnant women will feel more comfortable bringing it up if they develop any signs of mental illness. When I talk to pregnant women, I have noticed that there is an image that women are expected to be healthy during pregnancy and give birth, just like that! This can lead to stigma and a fear in pregnant women who develop mental illness.

The first thing that we all can do to help women who develop mental illness is to talk about it, they need our help and support, and they have the right to get help. As midwives we have the task to ensure that these women feel that they are not alone.

I’m so pleased to be able to take part of the recent research at the NJF Confress this year. Stay tuned for live coverage and blog posts and follow along in social media using #midwives4all

Cover photo credit: Margus Kulden (Flickr/Creative Commons)


Girls’ Globe will be providing live coverage from the NJF Congress in Gothenburg, Sweden. Follow the conversations here on and through the hashtag #midwives4all on Twitter and Instagram. Learn more through the following links:

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Category: Mental Health    Pregnancy
Tagged with: Maternal Health

Emma Wilen

In January I became a midwife. A tough job, great responsibility , high tempo , unsocial hours . But it's the best thing I decided to do. To work with these amazing women every day, to have the honor to see their power and of course, all the beautiful babies!

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