The Maternal Mental Health Alliance’s (MMHA) new campaign – Everyone’s Business – calls for all women throughout the UK who experience perinatal mental health problems to receive the care they and their families need, wherever and whenever they need it.
With more than 1 in 10 women developing a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year after having a baby, and 7 in 10 women hiding or underplaying the severity of their perinatal mental illness, it is clear that undiagnosed or untreated perinatal mental health problems are a major public health concern (MMHA 2014).
The Everyone’s Business campaign, funded by Comic Relief, aims to not only improve the lives of all women throughout the UK who experience perinatal mental health problems, but to provide the key information and tools to support commissioners and service providers to make the necessary improvements. For further details about Everyone’s Business click here.
There will be more about this important issue in the September edition of MIDIRS Midwifery Digest.
About maternal and perinatal health
Perinatal mental health covers a vast range of emotional states a woman may encounter during pregnancy and beyond.
For the majority of women, pregnancy and motherhood are a time of great joy and fulfilment of the maternal role, however, for others this stage in life is not traversed with such ease. The experience is not a positive one and can have long-lasting effects not only upon the women but can impact on the child and close family members.
The costs associated with perinatal mental health concerns are in excess of £8.1 billion per year in the UK alone. To be able to support women and families in line with the recommended national guidelines, the NHS would need to invest at least £337 million per year in this area. The associated costs and implications for others also need bringing into the financial equation. Supporting family members may also suffer mental distress, resulting in greater aid from supportive services. Time away from the workplace has implications for those affected and children may need additional support from health visitors, schools and mental health services.
Perinatal illness covers a broad spectrum of symptoms and severity from a short-lasting feeling of low mood through to the very severe form of puerperal psychosis. Many women have quite a deep depression which can last for months and even years, with some women hiding their symptoms for a long time in fear of repercussions questioning their ability as mothers.
We must also keep in mind that this is not just a UK problem but affects women from all walks of life and all corners of the globe.
Maternal Mental Health Alliance (2014). Maternal mental health
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