As Sport Relief announces their campaign to raise the profile of maternal mental health, the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) highlights the vital role that health visitors have in supporting parents with perinatal mental ill-health, yet they currently have insufficient time or capacity for this important task.

Health visitors are the largest public health workforce. Through their delivery of services to every family with pre-school children, they are the best-placed public health professionals to identify, manage and provide early support for mothers and fathers with mild to moderate perinatal mental health problems and to seek early specialist help for those with more serious conditions.

In addition, health visitors are the trusted source of support for families according to research by the Early Intervention Foundation (2015). When parents were asked who they turned to for support, over 60% said their health visitor, closely followed by family and friends.

Dr Cheryll Adams, Executive Director of the Institute of Health Visiting, said: “Although parents will turn to their health visitor for support, often there is insufficient time for the health visitor to do an assessment. In a recent iHV survey, the results showed that 68% of health visitors have seen an increase in postnatal depression over the last two years. However, 1 in 4 health visitors cannot provide every family with a postnatal mental health (PMH) assessment at 6-8 weeks, and 3 in 4 cannot at 3-4 months as recommended by the Healthy Child Programme.

“While these figures have improved from previous years due to the investment in health visiting by the government, they make clear that sustained investment is needed to ensure that every mother has access to prompt help.”

Dr Cheryll Adams, Executive Director of the iHV

Dr Cheryll Adams, Executive Director of the iHV

As Sport Relief’s maternal mental health campaign gets underway today, it’s important to share our Parent Tips on Emotional Health and Wellbeing for Mothers and Fathers.

If you’re a health visitor, please share these with your parents.


Mood changes, irritability and episodes of tearfulness are common after giving birth. These symptoms are often known as the “baby blues”, which affects 50% of new mothers and usually lasts around 5 to 10 days.  More than 1 in 10 women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year of having a baby.






Men go through a multitude of complex changes during the transition to fatherhood, making the postnatal period a particularly vulnerable time in a man’s life. Fathers can experience depression in the postnatal period resulting from the different demands placed on them. This is often known as paternal postnatal depression.