Mental illness during pregnancy – whether anxiety, depression or more severe psychiatric disorders – can have a significant negative impact on a mother and her baby. Poor psychological health has been associated with low birthweight, premature birth, perinatal and infant deaths, postnatal depression, as well as longer term behavioural and psychological impacts on the child.
Unfortunately despite 10-15 percent of women being affected by mental illness during pregnancy, not all receive the support they need. The top barriers to receiving proper treatment are the lack of recognition by both women themselves and health professionals, the social stigma associated with mental illness (shame), lack of personal resources and the lack of trained clinicians, as well as patchy perinatal services across the UK.
Tommy’s wants all women to be able to talk about how they feel during pregnancy, without the fear of stigma or discrimination. This should be whether they have a previous history, existing mental illness or are well and want to protect their mental wellbeing.
Understandably, we hear from women who may have suffered a miscarriage, premature baby or stillbirth and are anxious about their subsequent pregnancy. The Tommy's midwives are trained to discuss this with women or their families.
What changes do we want to see in mental health provision
Tommy's wants to see:
- women accurately identified in pregnancy when suffering from mental health problems;
- joined-up management of women with mental illness in pregnancy (i.e., between GPs/ midwives/psychiatrists and other relevant healthcare professionals);
- increased awareness among pregnant women about how to maintain mental wellbeing in pregnancy;
- more research into how women should be cared for after a bereavement;
- more research into safe and appropriate medication for pregnant women who suffer from mental health problems.
Report into perinatal mental health
In October 2013 we released a report into perinatal mental health, in conjunction with Netmums, the Institute of Health Visiting and the Royal College of Midwives, and supported by the Boots Family Trust.With up to one in seven women experiencing a perinatal mental health problem, Tommy's and its partners in this report are calling for a range of measures to help women with perinatal mental health problems to get the support they need.
One of the measures we are calling for is use of a Wellbeing Plan that we have devised with our partners. We need to achieve a much greater awareness and openness about mental health issues during pregnancy and after birth. Routine use of a Wellbeing Plan in pregnancy would help new parents to talk openly with health professionals and recognise any symptoms and support needed early on.
You can access our information on mental wellbeing in pregnancy here
Health professionals need to be better trained in helping couples to cope with the loss of their baby.
Jo went into labour at five months and lost her triplets. Six years later, she’s finally coming to terms with her grief.
Aruna suffered two miscarriages between April and October 2011. She now has two sons.
Mark and I have two girls. We also had a son, Alexander, but he was stillborn at 36 weeks.