Blog Archives

Suicidal thoughts during pregnancy

Perinatal depression and anxiety are serious mental health problems and are among the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality worldwide!

Pregnant women are at higher risk for suicidal ideation and behaviours compared to the general population.

Suicide has been identified as one of the major contributors to the global mortality burden and there is a growing concern over the increase in suicidal ideation and behaviour among pregnant women.

Studies in low- and middle-income countries put the rate of maternal death due to suicide at somewhere between 0.65% and 3.55%. In such cases, risk factors include poverty, lack of support, lack of trust in health systems and coexisting mental illnesses.

Suicidal thoughts experienced during pregnancy can continue beyond the initial postpartum period, affecting the well-being of both mother and child.

More about pregnancy and suicidal ideation in our infographic


Violence against Women during and after pregnancy

Women are particularly vulnerable to domestic abuse during and after their pregnancy. 

Protect yourself and your baby – help is available!

It is important to know what kinds of behaviour is considered domestic abuse – it is not only physical or sexual harm. Did you know that domestic abuse can happen between any persons sharing a household – not only at the hands of your partner?


Do you have a safety plan in place for you and your baby should anything go wrong?

Find out more about all this important information in our Violence against Women leaflet

Looking for more information for new mothers? Check out our resource pages.

MMH campaign summary and other news from the PMHP

Want to know how the Maternal Mental Health awareness campaign went this year?

Or want to check out our latest resources and developments in and around the PMHP?

Read our latest newsletter here

International Day of Action For Women’s Health: Ensuring Respectful Maternity Care

Crosspost from Maternal Health Task Force blog by Kayla McGowan, Project Coordinator, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

“As we celebrate International Day of Action for Women’s Health on May 28, we reflect on the physical, emotional and psychosocial dimensions of women’s health as well as the reasons to support girls’ and women’s health throughout the lifecycle.

With Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 calling for an end to all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere, the elimination of all violence against women and girls and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights by 2030, now is the time to draw attention to the many elements of and impediments to women’s health and rights […]

Read the full blog entry: International Day of Action For Women’s Health: Ensuring Respectful Maternity Care | Maternal Health Task Force

Telling the difference: identifying maternal mental disorders 

Pregnancy and giving birth can be a stressful time, and it is common for women to feel down or anxious. In fact, many women feel emotional just after childbirth, and this is commonly known as the ‘baby blues’.

Telling the difference between the normal emotions many women experience after having a baby and symptoms that indicate the start of postpartum depression or other mental health disorders is difficult.

Our Maternal Mental Health Handbook helps to identify signs and symptoms of mental illness, types of mental illness that can occur during the perinatal period and cultural expressions of mental illness and distress.


Read the Maternal Mental Illness chapter here

To explore the entire Maternal Mental Health Handbook check our resource pages here

Women using alcohol and drugs in pregnancy are often influenced by other difficulties in their lives.

Issue Brief

Alcohol and other drug use in pregnancy

This issue brief was developed as a result of a recent research study looking at alcohol and other drug (AOD) use among pregnant women at Hanover Park (Cape Town, South Africa).

In this study we looked at the profile of women who were using AOD and what factors in their lives were associated with alcohol and drug use. We then interviewed our counsellors to get a better understanding of how they recognise women who are AOD users, and what they do to help them.

This brief summarises some of the findings, such as risk factors, implications for women and advice for healthcare workers to support pregnant women using substances.


(Graph: Risk Factors relating to women’s use of alcohol and other drugs during pregnancy)

“Alcohol and other drugs (AOD) use among pregnant women is associated with poor health outcomes for mothers and children during and after pregnancy. Frequent AOD use has also been linked with low weight gain during pregnancy, less fetal growth, and premature birth. Research has found that South Africa has one of the highest prevalence rates for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in the world. Alcohol, crack/cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine are the most abused substances in South Africa, with alcohol abuse being the most significant problem.”

Read our latest issue brief here
Interested in other issues relating to pregnancy? Find more briefs on our research pages here.

Innovation in maternal #mentalhealth care

Innovation in maternal #mentalhealth care, ‘Treating Depression Before It Becomes Postpartum’ Excellent article:

South African partnership hopes to prove text messages can save the lives of mothers and children

According to UNICEF, in South Africa the child mortality rate has fallen from 61 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 45 in 2012. But that is still higher than targets set for the country in the United Nation Millennium Development Goals. And some 1,500 women died from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes in 2013, according to the World Health Organization. This figure has changed little from where it stood two decades ago.

MAMA is an example of a public-private partnership (PPP), a collaboration of governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), private companies and other entities that get together to fund projects and implement programs that address some of the world’s most challenging health and development issues.

MAMA, a public-private partnership led by Johnson & Johnson and USAID, aims to inform pregnant women and new mothers via text messages.

Launched three years ago, MAMA is a joint effort led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Johnson & Johnson, with active projects in South Africa and Bangladesh, and planned rollouts in India and Nigeria. It is also one of many so-called mHealth programs begun in recent years, seeking to leverage the rapid growth of mobile phones to address vast public health needs in developing countries.

Through MAMA South Africa, registered pregnant women and new mothers receive text messages twice a week that guide them through their pregnancy and the first year of their children’s lives. The MAMA text message program reaches 12,000 women in six clinics in Johannesburg, the nation’s largest city. It also has an online component that reaches hundreds of thousands of women nationally through informational, interactive sites and weekly quizzes.

Read the full article on the Global Post

or go directly to the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action site (MAMA)

Our latest E-news are out!

Our latest E-news are out! Stories include @PMHPatUCT women’s month participation & the new screening tool –

PMHP at the Artscape Women’s Humanity Arts Festival

The PMHP will celebrate Women’s Day and Women’s Month, the 8th Women’s Humanity Arts Festival

at Artscape Theatre Centre on 9 August 2014

The theme of the 2014 festival is HUMANITY and the objective this year is to celebrate and salute those women who actively strive to better their own lives and the lives of countless other women in our society today. The festival includes, as it has for the past seven years, the disabled community, the disenfranchised community and women and men from all walks of life. The Artscape Women’s Humanity Arts Festival is Artscape’s response to highlight the lack of “humanity” which marginalized groups face on a daily basis in South Africa, with particular emphasis on women and the disabled.

The Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) is honoured to take part in this very important event to highlight the impact of mental health on the well-being and development of women and their babies.

On the 9th August, Dr. Simone Honikman, the PMHP founder and director will host a discussion together with one of the projects former clients, who works as a psychologist in the HIV sector.

Furthermore the PMHP will host a display table providing information about our project.

About the Discussion 

Why Maternal Mental Health matters?

Pregnancy and the postnatal period is a psychologically distressing period for many women, particularly those facing social challenges like poverty, gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS. The prevalence of common maternal mental disorders (including depression and anxiety) in low-income communities in South Africa is very high. One out of three women in South Africa suffers from depression during or after pregnancy. When left untreated, mental illness can contribute to maternal mortality, poor maternal and child health, and consequently, negative development outcomes. In response to this problem, the Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) was started in 2002. The mission of the PMHP is to develop and advocate for accessible maternal mental health care that can be delivered effectively at scale in low resource settings.

Simone Honikman, founder and director of the PMHP, will present on maternal mental health as an integral part of maternal health!


Highlights of the Festival

Stage Productions

Hatched is an autobiographical work created by the award-winning dancer and choreographer Mamela Nyamza performed at the Artscape Arena on 6 and 8 August at 20:30 and 17:00 respectively. Hatched reflects on Nyamza’s life as a mother and as an artist. It seeks to convey deeply personal and challenging issues of culture, tradition and a woman’s evolving sexuality within the customary rites and rituals of marriage, until she realizes her true identity. Performing alongside Mamela is Amkele Mandla. Ticket price R80.

Tannie Dora Goes Bos is a hilarious, dark murder mystery offering the perfect combination of comedy, drama and suspense from first time playwright Warren Meyer and acclaimed director Jeremeo Le Cordeur (Dress to Impress; Pizza’s Here; Risk; February 14th). Taking to the stage at the Artscape Arena on 6 and 9 August at 18:00 and 12:00 respectively, it’s an open and shut case for the Franschhoek Police Department when Theadora Louw, known to all as “Tannie Dora”, confesses to the murder of Willem Johannes. The cast includes Andre Lombard, Anton Jeftha, Dean van Der Ventel, Khalil Kathrada and Kim Syster. Ticket price R80.

Rondomskrik is the story of Antjie Fortuin, a teenager with all the potential to work her way to a better life. It’s a story that plays out daily on the Cape Flats, in Delft, Soweto, Bellville or Grassy Park. Antjie has to work with her talents but also has to deal with the very real dangers of violence, drugs, alcohol and rape. The cast includes Shaleen Surtie-Richards, Lee-Ann van Rooi, Crystal Donna Roberts, and Richard September. A must see on 7 and the 8 August at 20:00. Ticket price R80.

I Stand Corrected is a powerful story told through haunting and sometimes absurdly comical physical theatre, with songs, dance, music and drama. The production is an artistic response to homophobic and transphobic, hate rape and murder as well as a beautiful, uplifting memorial that takes place at the Artscape Arena on 7, 8 and 9 August at 20:15. Created by Mojisola Adebayo and Mamela Nyamza, I Stand Corrected is the first collaboration ever by these two outstanding international artists. I Stand Corrected was nominated for six London Off West End Theatre awards including best director, best play and best choreography. Ticket price R80.

The other productions that fall under the festival umbrella are Three’s Company ballet production at the Opera House on 8 August at 19:30 and 9 August at 14:00 and 19:30 respectively; R125 – R200. Divalicious Dames – 15 and 16 August at 20:15 at the Artscape Arena.


Freedom’s Child was born out of a need to pay homage to one of South Africa’s greatest literary activists, James Matthews – marrying poetry and jazz on 9 August at 15:00 at the Artscape Arena. Melanie Scholtz, Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz 2010, thrills audience as she uses James’ words on her album “Freedom’s Child” (2011) produced by Mark Fransman and acclaimed British saxophonist Soweto Kinch as well as an array of South Africa’s finest jazz musicians. The album comes to life with Melanie Scholtz, Mark Fransman, Brydon Bolton, Kevin Gibson, Justin Bellairs and of course, James Matthews. Ticket price R80.

The festival finale is a dazzling concert on 9 August at 20:00, Women in Song, directed by Sophia Foster.  Featuring artists are Thembi Mtshali-Jones, Sylvia Mdunyelwa, Zanne Stapelberg, Vicky Sampson, Sarah Theron, Fancy Galada, Zelda Benjamin, Tina Schouw and world-renowned poet, Diana Ferrus.  The concert will also feature the South African Circle of Dance Academy directed by Gladys Bullock.   The Musical Director for the event is Janine Neethling. Ticket price R100.

Book launches:

Books to be launched at the festival include “Karoo Kitchen” by Sydda Essop, “Forgiveness” by Archbishop Desmond Tutu & Rev Mpho Tutu, and the 2nd edition publication by poet, novelist and political activist James Matthews entitled “Age is a beautiful phase”. The festival offers stimulating conversation, the “Forgiveness” book discussion takes place on 9 August from 11:00 – 12:00. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Rev Mpho Tutu explain the four-step process of forgiveness – Telling the Story, Naming the Hurt, Granting Forgiveness and Renewing or Releasing the Relationship – as well as to offer meditations, exercises and prayers to guide the reader along the way.

Other events:

Meet the Woman Zone team and hear Philippa Kabali – Kagwa’s story at the 13 women storytelling session Friday 8 August at 17:30.

CAPE TOWN’S WOMEN ARE WALKING…from St George’s Cathedral to Artscape to celebrate Women’s Day, (August 9) to unify the Mother City, to mark the achievements of women and to claim their place in Cape Town. All are invited to participate in this Walk of unity, solidarity and celebration. The Women’s Humanity Walk, coordinated by Woman Zone, Artscape and SAFFI (SA Faith and Family Institute), will be addressed and blessed by Interfaith leaders at St George’s Cathedral and will end at Artscape to coincide with the commencement of the Woman’s Day events of the Artscape Women Humanity Arts Festival. Details or facebook: womanzonect

The festival will also host a visual arts exhibition by Dawn De Grass and a photo exhibition, “Every Mother has hopes and dreams for her Children” by Clive Gray.

Artscape paves the way for a powerful woman, Karen Smit who is a businesswoman, entrepreneur and mother with a disability who will launch a website, WAND (Women’s Achievement Network for Disability) on 7 August.

Workshops hosted at the festival:

The South African Women in Construction Western Cape – 9 August at 09:45 – 11:00

Know Your Rights Law Workshops – Southern Suburbs Legal Advice Centre – 9 August:

Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences: 10h00-10h35

Labour Laws in respect of Disabled persons: 10h50-11h25

Children and the Age: 11h40 – 12h15

Consumer Rights/Protection: 12h30-13h00

Health screenings for blood glucose and blood pressure will be conducted by the TB/HIV Care Association and CANSA will be taking care of the breast screenings for all festival-goers.

The Perinatal Mental Health Project talk takes place on 9 August at 10:30 in the Chandelier Foyer. PMHP is an independent initiative based at the UCT, as a founding partner of the Alan J Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health. The PMHP provides counseling services and builds capacity amongst health workers to provide support, screening and appropriate referral for pregnant women and girls experiencing psychological distress. They actively address the mental health problems associated with gender based violence, teen pregnancy, HIV, substance misuse, refugee status and impaired bonding through our clinical work, through training of healthcare staff, through pragmatic research projects and through advocacy work.

The Women’s Hope Education and Training (WHEAT) Trust is once again hosting an award ceremony in celebration of, and to acknowledge the grassroots women leaders throughout the Western Cape on 7 August.

Book tickets through Computicket

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