By: 28 April 2022
East London charity Maternity Mates calls for volunteers to provide emotional support for disadvantaged mums-to-be

The Covid-19 pandemic has been an especially challenging and isolating time for pregnant women and new mothers, many who found themselves alone during their journey into motherhood.

A recent survey from Cambridge University revealed that 47% of parents had negative experiences of giving birth during the height of the pandemic [1]. 

However, as we begin to come out of the pandemic, the isolation, disadvantages and inequalities experienced during Covid continue to be a stark reality for many women.  

That’s why East London charity Women’s Health and Family Services (WHFS) is calling on local women to join them as volunteer Maternity Mates to ensure every woman is supported and empowered during their pregnancy, birth and afterwards.  

The Maternity Mates programme provides extensive training to female volunteers to support pregnant women and new mums who are experiencing vulnerabilities like social isolation, inability to speak English, domestic violence, poor mental health or for those who are refugees or asylum seekers in Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Newham.

Maternity Mates are matched with a local woman from her fifth month of pregnancy and provide support until six weeks after the baby is born, including attending the birth. They meet with the woman regularly to develop a trusting relationship, providing emotional and practical support so she can make informed choices about her maternity care and have the best start with her new baby.

Alda M, a young woman who found herself alone and without support when she became pregnant in 2020 is grateful for the support she received from Maternity Mates.

Alda who was born in Albania and raised in Greece, moved to Tower Hamlets in 2018 with her partner.  When she became pregnant with twin girls, her now ex-partner and family refused to support her unless she terminated the pregnancy – something she didn’t want to do.  

Alda didn’t know many people in London and English wasn’t her first language, something that made it difficult to navigate the NHS. She was working as a bartender, but this soon became too physically difficult as she progressed in her pregnancy.  

While at a hospital appointment alone, during the height of the first lockdown, she spotted a poster for Maternity Mates. She contacted them and was quickly matched with someone – Shamima, or as Alda calls her ‘an angel.’  

Alda comments: “When I ‘met’ Shamima, on a video call because of the lockdown, she was a person I didn’t know. She didn’t have anything to gain from doing this for me but she was so kind to me. She gave me hope, courage and kindness at a time when I needed it the most. 

“Shamima had a big impact on my pregnancy and the first few months after giving birth. When you are pregnant you need someone who makes you feel safe, especially if you’re alone and in a new country where you don’t speak the language very well. You need someone to trust. And that’s exactly what I was missing – someone to be there for me and to trust.  

“It’s because of Shamima that I decided I wanted to be a Maternity Mate myself.” 

Alda trained as a Maternity Mate and has now supported many women across Tower Hamlets and Newham. Her twin girls, Agape and Andriana, are now two years old and her experience volunteering has given her the confidence to pursue training to become a childminder.  

Karen Wint, CEO of WHFS comments: “Alda’s experience shows the real difference it can make when we take the time to listen to women and show them compassion, kindness and support.  

“Every day, our Maternity Mates support women to have an empowering and healthy pregnancy and birth. It’s an incredibly rewarding volunteer opportunity that will enable you to make a genuine difference in your local community.                                                                      

“But the reality right now is there are many women across East London who are very isolated and without a support system – many more than we are currently able to support. This is why we’re encouraging any woman who wants to have a positive impact on the lives of women to join us and train as a Maternity Mate.” 

Becoming a Maternity Mate will not only offer volunteers the chance to have a positive impact on their local community, but will also give them the chance to develop their own skills and can fit flexibly around their own life and commitments.

Kelly Whiting has been a volunteer Maternity Mate since 2019 and now works full time coordinating volunteers for the programme.  

Kelly says: “There is nothing like it. It can often be very challenging and emotional but getting to see women meet their baby for the first time, helping them get out of the house, find essential items for their baby and taking them to meet other mums and babies – it’s incredible. 

“These may seem like small things for us as volunteers, but for these women, it can be life changing and that feels amazing. I’ve also witnessed the strong sense of community that exists in East London and how people rally together when someone is in need – I feel so much more connected to my community, and as an immigrant with no close family here, that has been so wonderful. 

“I encourage women who want to join Maternity Mates to have an open and honest conversation with their employers about how they can support them to volunteer and make an incredible difference in their local community. My experience as a Maternity Mate has been incredible. Each and every woman I’ve supported has left a lasting impact on my life.” 

Do you live in East London, have two hours a week to spare and want to make a difference in your local community? Maternity Mates is now recruiting volunteers. Training will start on 4 May 2020.

Please email or visit  for more information. You can apply directly here.