WHO’s Release New Guidelines for Integration of Perinatal Mental Health
Taking cognizance of the figures suggesting that almost 1 in every 5 women experience mental health problems during pregnancy or after childbirth, the World Health Organization has issued guidelines for the integration of perinatal mental health in maternal and child health services.
With respect to women undergoing perinatal mental health conditions, it was seen that about 20 percent of women engage in suicidal thoughts or self-harming activities. While overlooking these mental health symptoms risks a woman’s overall health and well-being, it also impacts the infant’s physical and emotional development. The Nurturing Care Framework, the WHO recommendations on maternal and newborn care for a positive postnatal experience, and WHO guidelines on improving Early Childhood Development are all initiatives taken to draw focus on the importance of screening, diagnosis, and management of perinatal mental health conditions.
Additionally, the newly launched WHO guide aims at providing accurate information to maternal and child health providers to aptly identify symptoms and respond to them by involving local-cultural mechanisms. The guide encompasses an evidence-informed approach for planning the integration of perinatal mental healthcare with maternal and child health services to further assess its impact. This initiative looks forward to creating a respectful and stigma-free environment for women to continue availing services for their individual and also their babies’ well-being.
What is Perinatal Mental Health?
The perinatal period is the time ranging from pregnancy to one-year post-childbirth and perinatal mental health can be understood as a woman’s mental health during pregnancy and a year after childbirth. Although childbirth and motherhood are said to be the most important events in a woman’s life, the pregnancy and postpartum period constitute to be the most vulnerable times for women to develop mental illnesses. Studies suggest that in spite of the fact that tiredness and stress are part and parcel of this journey of motherhood, some young mothers experience mental and psychological states that go beyond these commonly held notions of pregnancy. The escalation of these mental health issues significantly distresses the mothers and hampers their health and well-being. A number of factors such as a history of mental health problems, experiencing a traumatic pregnancy or childbirth, absence of social support during this crucial life-changing event, and even a family history of mental disorders can contribute to this issue. While anxiety and postpartum depression are observed to affect most pregnant women with prevalence rates going up to 20 percent, children of such women are also prone to experience temperament issues, cognitive and emotional delays as well as engaging in antisocial activities like violence later in life.
Perinatal period and mental health changes:
- Mood: Displaying random shifts in mood which are rather continuous and extreme such as feeling angry at one moment and cheering at the other followed by crying or sobbing may show how the hormonal changes during and after childbirth affect a women’s emotional health. The mother may encounter what is known as the baby blues which are said to fade away 2 weeks from childbirth.
- Anxiety: Experiencing nervousness and anxiousness too often, being unable to stop worrying accompanied by bodily changes such as nausea, trembling, dizziness, and having trouble sleeping are symptoms that hint at the presence of anxiety disorders.
- Depression: Feeling depressed, barely taking up activities you once enjoyed, sleeping more or less than usual, eating very large or very small portions, feeling tired all the time, having trouble concentrating, carrying low self-esteem, having feelings of guilt, losing the will to live are all indicative of undergoing postpartum depression.
- Postpartum psychosis: Childbirth can cause you to develop psychotic behavior which may translate to experiencing hallucinations, delusions, and mania. Postpartum psychosis can be severe for the mother and the infant and requires immediate medical intervention.
- Bipolar Affective Disorder: It is believed that half of those women fall prey to postpartum depression and are likely to experience postpartum bipolar disorder. Also, those who were already diagnosed with bipolar are at an elevated risk to develop postpartum depression.
Perinatal symptoms to recognize:
It is essential to recognize the following red flags so that further help could be extended to new mothers and infants.
1) New and persistent expressions of estrangement from infant feeding inadequate or incompetent as a parent
2) Changes in mental states
3) Being more irritable than usual
4) Thoughts or acts of self-harm
5) Anxiety or intrusive thoughts and other subtle symptoms
6) Shame, guilt, fear of consequences
7) Being overly concerned about the health of the baby
8) Thoughts about escaping your own life
Ways to overcome the problem:
1. Preconception advice: Having an open conversation and clearing all doubts regarding pregnancy can better prepare the mother for childbirth.
2. Psychological therapies: Seeking professional help from mental health advisors is always recommended as they may assist you through therapy or counseling to deal with many problems like depression, anxiety, and others.
3. Parent-Infant Bonding: Showering your baby with love and affection can help build healthy attachment and ensure a positive development of the infant thereby easing the mother of the burden regarding parenting.
4. Medication advice: Medical advice from doctors in severe cases is needed to ensure the health of the mother and the child.