The same percentage (46 per cent) agreed that they found being pregnant more emotionally challenging than they expected.
The research was conducted last October by Moment Health, a Belfast-based technology company working to improve maternal mental health services.
Of the survey’s participants, 41 per cent of those who were currently pregnant indicated that they would like more support from their workplace, with a few women indicating adjectives such as ‘uninterested’, ‘callous’, disappointed’ and ‘inconvenienced’ could be used to describe the attitude of their employer towards their pregnancy.
Vivette Glover, Professor of Perinatal Psychobiology at Imperial College London, is an international expert on maternal emotional states experienced during pregnancy, and the effects they can have on the development of the child both antenatally and postnatally.
In a recent guest post for the Moment Health website, Professor Glover said she would like to see society as a whole doing more to provide emotional support to pregnant women.
“Most people do not know that symptoms of depression are as common during pregnancy, as after giving birth,” she writes. “Symptoms of anxiety are very common during pregnancy too.”
Professor Glover says employers should be aware of this. “There is no evidence that work itself is a problem, but if the working environment is such that the pregnant woman feels very stressed, then it may become so.”
According to the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, more than one in 10 women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or sometime during the first 12 months after giving birth.
“Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health issues both during pregnancy and after a baby is born,” says Professor Jim Dornan, a leading obstetrician and gynaecologist from Ireland. “Women are more likely to suffer PND if they had antenatal depression, but early treatment of the latter can reduce a woman’s risk of developing postnatal depression – making early intervention important for effective treatment.”
The survey also revealed that 44 per cent of women felt their work environment had increased their stress levels, and 41 per cent would like more support within the workplace. To combat this, top suggestions for improving the experience at work while pregnant included the option of working from home, the provision of a comfortable desk or chair during their pregnancy, flexible working hours and a clearly written maternity policy.
Other services inside and outside the workplace that appealed to new mums included access to private healthcare schemes, counselling support and using an emotional wellbeing app.
Professor Glover also emphasised that supporting pregnant women can positively impact the next generation, too. “If we care better for the emotional state of pregnant women, we will help not only them, but the future generation,” she says. “We all need to look out more for pregnant women, and encourage them to talk to someone if they are having problems.”
Moment Health is a technology company that aims to prioritise Maternal Mental Health and provide new parents with the tools and knowledge they need to sustain good mental wellbeing – from pregnancy through to parenthood.
The Moment Health app has been developed with clinicians and healthcare professionals. It screens for perinatal, postnatal and associated anxieties, and includes additional features such as a helpful guide to practical and accessible coping strategies.
At Moment Health, our mission is to make maternal mental health mainstream #MakeItMainstream.