In This Article Maternal Mental Health

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Pregnancy
  • Postpartum Maternal Mental Health
  • Parenting Outcomes
  • Postpartum Mental Health Treatment
  • The Pediatric Health Care System
  • Sociodemographic Correlates
  • An International Perspective: Maternal Mental Health in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Social Work Maternal Mental Health
Sara Cullen
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0201


More than two-thirds of mothers have a psychiatric disorder, which includes a wide range of disorders, such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Mothers with mental illness face a significant number of hardships, above and beyond the competing demands of parenting and managing their illness. Social workers have the opportunity to interact with and provide services to mothers with mental illness in a variety of service settings, such as the mental health system, the pediatric health care system, and the child welfare system. This bibliography provides references on the prevalence and nature of maternal mental health issues, the interaction of these families in the mentioned service systems, sociodemographic characteristics of these families, and the parenting experience for mothers with mental illness.

General Overviews

The subject of maternal mental health covers a wide range of topics, starting with the prevalence of motherhood among women with mental illness and the nature and types of these disorders. The references in this section provide an introduction to or an overview of maternal mental illness. Each reference covers a key factor in developing our understanding of the extent of the issue of maternal mental health. Nicholson, et al. 2004; Mental Health America and SAMHSA 2008; and Reupert, et al. 2012 offer information on prevalence, specific disorders, and general issues associated with maternal mental illness, providing much of the foundational knowledge on what is known about maternal mental health. Mowbray, et al. 2000 describes an overview of motherhood for women with serious mental illnesses and the pertinent issues they face, while Bosanac, et al. 2003 provides an overview of the literature specifically on mothers with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Finally, Montgomery 2005 provides a critical review of the literature on mothers with mental illness, showing how this body of work may actually contribute to the continued marginalization of these women.

  • Bosanac, P., A. Buist, and G. Burrows. 2003. Motherhood and schizophrenic illness: A review of the literature. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 37:24–30.

    DOI: 10.1046/j.1440-1614.2003.01104.xE-mail Citation »

    The authors provide an overview of the literature from 1971 to 2003 on the impact of motherhood on women with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders, highlighting the shortcomings of these studies and providing recommendations for future research.

  • Mental Health America, and SAMHSA. 2008. Maternal depression—Making a difference through community action: A Planning Guide. Rockville, MD: SAMHSA.

    E-mail Citation »

    This guide orients maternal depression as a public health issue and provides an overview on maternal depression, as well as covering interventions geared toward social workers, community organizers, and policymakers.

  • Montgomery, P. 2005. Mothers with a serious mental illness: A critical review of the literature. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing 19:226–235.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.apnu.2005.07.005E-mail Citation »

    This article is a critical review of the limited literature on the subjective experience of mothers with mental illness. Rather than present a broad overview of the literature, Montgomery examines how the literature itself actually contributes to the marginalization of these mothers.

  • Mowbray, C. T., D. Oyserman, and D. Bybee. 2000. Mothers with serious mental illness. New Directions for Mental Health Services 88:73–91.

    DOI: 10.1002/yd.23320008809E-mail Citation »

    Drawing from the largest US longitudinal study on mothering among women with mental illness, this article covers what is known about mothers with serious mental illness, including mental health services, parenting outcomes, and the experience of parenting with a mental illness, concluding with lengthy recommendations for providers.

  • Nicholson, J., K. Biebel, J. Katz-Leavy, and V. F. Williams. 2004. Prevalence of parenthood in adults with mental illness: Implications for state and federal policy makers, programs, and providers. In Mental health, United States, 2002. Edited by R. W. Manderscheid and M. J. Henderson, 120–137. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

    E-mail Citation »

    This widely cited chapter in SAMSHA’s annual report on mental health issues is devoted exclusively to the issue of maternal mental health and discusses the prevalence, nature, and needs of mothers with psychiatric disorders. This work provides the foundation of our knowledge about the extent to which maternal mental illness affects families.

  • Reupert, A. E., D. J. Maybery, and N. M. Kowalenko. 2012. Children whose parents have a mental illness: Prevalence, need and treatment. Medical Journal of Australia 1 (Suppl. 1): 7–9.

    E-mail Citation »

    Using data from the United Kingdom and Australia, these authors estimate that up to one in five children live in a family where a parent has a mental illness. They review the literature to provide an overview of the prevalence, risks, and outcomes for children impacted by parental mental illness.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.