Healthcare professionals call for more mental health support in pregnancy

A leading maternal health campaigner and Northampton charity has called for maternal mental health checks to become a fundamental part of every woman’s physical health check during their pregnancy. 

This follows research published by MBRRACE-UK that showed mental health conditions are one of the leading direct causes of maternal death. This can have direct impact on the baby's growth and development, future mental well-being, bonding with parents and pregnancy outcomes. 

Maternal mental health issues affect at least 10-15% of the birth population and can happen to anyone (irrespective of previous mental health history) therefore awareness is important for every mother during pregnancy.  

In response to this, parents, campaigners, local MPs and a range of organisations supporting families will be getting together to raise awareness today at the Houses of Parliament. 

Major campaigner and Consultant Obstetrician Raja Gangopadhyay has teamed up with a number of partners, including NorPIP who has been funded by the Big Lottery Fund for its Flourishing Babies project. 

He explains, “Many mothers still find it difficult to express their feelings due to stigma and shame. It is important we support these people – it can happen to anyone and we must acknowledge the signs and act immediately.” 

 Anna Day from NorPiP, a leading charity provider in therapy that supports mothers experiencing postnatal depression in Northamptonshire, said “It’s time we recognise the importance of maternal mental wellbeing, and the fact that relapse rates are so ridiculously high around the perinatal period for mums with past experience of mental health issues. The good news is with the right wrap around care and support, this relapse or the emergence of new mental health issues can be better prevented or treated.” 

NorPIP has been funded nearly half a million pounds over the next three years by the Big Lottery Fund to provide support to mums, along with partners Family Action and Engage Antenatal who are struggling with their mental health issues during pregnancy to support them to bond with their babies, as well as access specialist therapists and perinatal support from specially trained peer support volunteers. 

This research also showed: 

* Mental health issues during pregnancy can impact the whole family, including the father. 

* This is a health condition: not a sign of weakness, not mother's failure to cope/ fault. 

* With the correct treatment, a full recovery is possible: therefore seeking early intervention support is essential. 

 Mr Richard Harrington MP and Mr Barry Gardiner MP who are sponsoring the event, along with other partners have attracted support from across the UK and different parts of the world. It aims to raise awareness and remove stigma surrounding mental health conditions during pregnancy and post childbirth. Mental illnesses still remain one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in the UK and globally. 

Mr Gangopadhyay added. “Myths and facts surrounding mental health issues need to be discussed in an open public forum and this is the essence of this event.” 

Jeannine Webster, a midwife from Ireland who suffered from this condition said, “This event is essential in highlighting the conversation about perinatal mental health problems and lifting the stigma surrounding it.” 

The event takes place at the Attlee Suite, House of Commons, on Friday 9th December 2-5pm. For further information and media enquiries please email: pmhevent2016@gmail.com.

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