Image from The Motherhood Group event in Brixton

Children's mental health

The Motherhood Group

We’re working with The Motherhood Group to improve the treatment and support made available to Black mothers in South London.

Key information

A film we produced together for Black Maternal Mental Health Week 2023

What are we doing together

We are partnering with The Motherhood Group to support their work creating safe and empowering spaces for Black mums. The Motherhood Group is a social enterprise built on the founder Sandra Igwe’s own experience of depression and racial discrimination during pregnancy.  The group focuses on the mental health of Black mothers, with support including pre-natal, pregnancy, and ante-natal counselling, access to doulas, events, campaigns, and peer support sessions. 

The group also provides training and advocacy opportunities for Black mothers, creating a network through which their voices are heard – all while protecting their health and understanding their rights. 

Racial bias in the health system is a key barrier to Black and other racially minoritised communities accessing support.  As findings from the MMBRACE UK 2020 report highlights Black women are four times more likely to die in pregnancy than white women. Statistics also suggest that postnatal depression in Black mothers is 13% higher than any other race, although a review of data from across the UK found that white women are more likely to be offered treatment for postnatal depression and anxiety than Black or Asian women. This disproportionate impact on racially minoritised mothers also impacts their children’s ability to thrive as poor perinatal mental health can also have a long-term impact on children’s wellbeing.

13% higher

Postnatal depression in Black mothers is 13% higher than any other race

The Motherhood Group is a Black-led organisation that has been historically under-funded and whose expertise is drawn on widely from public services nationally to help improve the way they support Black families. But this type of ‘coproduction’ can be extractive, even exploitative, without proper renumeration for the staff and volunteers and a true sharing of power when it comes to decision making. 

At a time when demand for The Motherhood Group’s services is higher than ever, we want to support the organisation to meet the needs of as many mothers as possible, and give them space to prioritise development and vision for the future. 

Aims of the partnership 

  • Support The Motherhood Group to continue shining a light on the role race plays in motherhood. Specifically, the trauma experienced by so many trying to navigate a system that is structurally racist.
  • Address issues of unequal access to appropriate, safe healthcare for Black mothers. This goes beyond geographical proximity and availability, it also requires services to speak people’s language, to be relevant to people’s lives, to be culturally and historically sensitive, and to be respectful and understanding of the experiences and struggles people have gone through
  • Learn more about how trust is built. Understand if investing in trusted support can help families feel safer when interacting with the health system more widely, and therefore improve children and parent’s mental health longer term
  • Drive research that centres and respects Black mother’s voices. The Motherhood Group is working to bridge the gap between healthcare services and the knowledge of families in Lambeth and Southwark
  • Support The Motherhood Group to continue building advocacy power and solidarity, as they campaign for wider system change
  • Ultimately, ensure that Black women’s mental and physical health needs are being met.

We are really excited and hopeful about working in collaboration with Impact on Urban Health. For the first time we feel like we have full autonomy over the direction our organisation is headed. Putting the power back in the hands of Black women - that itself is extremely empowering. We are finally the decision-makers of our care and support, which is really crucial for better outcomes for us and our families.  Our ambition is not only to be a Black-led sustainable social enterprise but to grow exponentially!

Sandra Igwe
Sandra Igwe Founder of The Motherhood Group

Connection to our strategy

An important focus of the children’s mental health programme is to build relationships with trusted community organisations that support families in Lambeth and Southwark. These organisations work to reduce the impact of poverty, racism, and poor housing, among other things, which are known to impact children’s mental health and behaviour. For children to thrive, all families need equal access to practical, safe and compassionate support. Grassroots peer led community groups recognise families as the experts in their own lives and support them to have autonomy over the care and support they receive. 

For racially minoritised families, pregnancy is sometimes the first point of contact with a racially biased health system that has a profound impact on trust and engagement with services long term.  Where the care on offer does not feel safe it risks not only being inaccessible and ineffective, but also perpetuating a cycle of trauma.

The Motherhood Group could play a key role in reducing health inequalities in the boroughs by being there at the first point of contact with health services. By building families’ trust in the wider system, and giving Black mums an opportunity to shape the services they use, the group could encourage access to other mental health and parenting support services throughout a child’s life.

We’re really glad to be working with The Motherhood Group because we know that racial bias in the health system is a key barrier to Black and other racially minoritised communities accessing support. We’ve learnt that who provides support is as important as what support is provided. We hope that by working together, we can improve equality of access to support, especially for young children who are communicating their feelings through their behaviour.

Kamna Muralidharan
Kamna Muralidharan Portfolio Manager

More about The Motherhood Group 

The Motherhood Group was founded by a Black mum, Sandra Igwe, with lived experience of postnatal depression, anxiety, and structural racism in health services.  Over the last six years she has been supported by over 50 volunteers and ambassadors who are all Black mums, and a number of counsellors and doulas who are all Black or mixed race.  The development of the group has been completely led by Black families and builds on their strengths and expertise. 

The group have also been involved in national campaigns to raise awareness around the disparities in Black women’s health outcomes. They pioneered the UK’s first-ever Black Maternal Mental Health Week UK.  Founder and CEO Sandra sits on the expert panel for the National Inquiry into Racial Injustice in Maternity Care, and on the Maternity Disparities Taskforce. She was listed as Forbes Top Inspirational Woman and has recently published a book, My Black Motherhood.

Sandra Igwe says, The Motherhood Group understands and meets the needs of the community that it serves – Black mothers. Black mothers need to have access to safe spaces, we need to feel heard, seen, valued, and respected. We need to be around people that understand our specific and individual challenges as well as celebrate our joys and strengths.  
When I was a new mum I wanted desperately to come across an organisation like The Motherhood Group. Because I couldn’t find anything I created what I knew I needed, and what other Black mothers needed too. I honestly felt like services were not really equipped to provide me with culturally competent care. The Motherhood Group was launched both out of frustration but also out of wanting actionable change for Black mothers.


More from The Motherhood Group

The Motherhood Group website