Maternal  Mental Health

The Foundation for Mother & Child Health UK (FMCH-UK) aims to: raise global awareness of the importance of good parental mental health during pregnancy and after birth; work to prevent mental illness in mothers and, help identify a referral route for those parents identified as being at risk or suffering.

 

We have collaborated with ForMed Films and other Not for Profit organisations to produce a short 6 minute animation called "Perinatal Positivity" to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining mental wellbeing in mothers and fathers. Sponsored by and in collaboration with the Burdett Trust for Nurses  the film was awarded the 'Innovation in Health Visiting Award'.

 

Some parents in the UK do not have english as their first language. In collaboration with the Royal Society of Medicine an Urdu version of the film has been produced, enabling all Urdu speaking parents in the UK the opportunity to understand the importance of maintaining mental wellbeing during pregnancy and in the first year after birth. Further translations are being produced.

 

The Foundation for Mother & Child Health-UK is a proud member of the Global Alliance for Maternal Mental Health: a coalition of international organisations committed to improving the mental health and wellbeing of women and their children in pregnancy and the first postnatal year throughout the world.

 

FMCH-UK is also a proud member of the Blue Dot Project raising awareness of maternal mental health for women in the USA.

Key facts

  • Worldwide, maternal depression is the most common serious health complication of maternity

  • Mental health problems in pregnancy and following childbirth are treatable

  • Mental health problems in pregnancy and following childbirth are roughly twice as common in low income countries as they are in high income countries

  • There are huge economic and human costs attached to a global failure to take action – untreated parental mental health problems can have a wide range of effects on women, their children, partners and significant others.

 

Who is at risk?

Any woman, or her partner, can develop a mental illness during the perinatal period – pregnancy and the first year after delivery.

Contributing factors include:

  • poor emotional and practical support

  • exposure to childhood emotional adversity

  • exposure to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence

  • having an unintended/unwanted pregnancy

  • poverty

  • conflict situations

  • natural disasters

  • previous history of mental health illness

all of which increase the risk of a woman or her partner developing a perinatal mental health illness.

Effects of poor parental mental health on infants after birth:

  • Infants are dependent on their parents for feeding, physical care, comfort and social interaction. If a parent is unable to respond to a baby’s needs due to poor mental wellbeing, their baby’s development is compromised;

  • Poor parental mental health is not only detrimental to the mother's or father's health; it is also linked to reduced sensitivity and responsiveness in caregiving, and to higher rates of behavioural problems in young children.

  • Very young infants can be affected by and are highly sensitive to the environment and the quality of care given to them. Prolonged or severe mental illness can hamper the mother-infant attachment, breastfeeding and infant care (WHO, 2018).

  •  In low and middle income countries mothers with mental health illnesses are often stigmatized and are less likely to participate in prenatal, perinatal, or postnatal care (Fisher et al, 2010);

  • In low and middle-income countries, the negative effects of maternal mental disorders have been linked directly to low birth weight and under-nutrition during the first year of life; stunting; diarrhoeal diseases; infectious illnesses; hospital admissions and reduced completion of immunization schedules among infants (Fisher et al, 2011).

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©2020 BY THE FOUNDATION FOR MOTHER & CHILD HEALTH.