New UN guide helps support perinatal mental healthcare in ‘stigma-free’ environment.

UN News, September 19, 2022.

Life-altering moments like pregnancy, birth, and early parenthood can be stressful for women and their partners, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It can trigger a period of poor mental health or lead to a worsening of previous mental health conditions.An estimated 84% of pregnancy-related deaths in 36 states between 2017 and 2019 were preventable, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report based on data from interdisciplinary committees that review deaths during and up to one year after pregnancy. Among deaths with information on timing, 22% occurred during pregnancy, 25% on or within seven days of delivery, and 53% seven days to one year after pregnancy. The leading underlying causes of pregnancy-related death were cardiac and coronary conditions among Black people, mental health conditions among Hispanic and white people, and hemorrhage among Asian people.

The first data released under a CDC-funded program to support these Maternal Mortality Review Committees, the report “paints a much clearer picture of pregnancy-related deaths in this country,” said Wanda Barfield, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “The majority of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable, highlighting the need for quality improvement initiatives in states, hospitals, and communities that ensure all people who are pregnant or postpartum get the right care at the right time.”

Moreover, among women with perinatal mental health conditions – just before and shortly after giving birth – around 20 per cent will experience suicidal thoughts or undertake acts of self-harm, said WHO.Ignoring mental fitness not only risks women’s overall health and well-being, but also impacts infants’ physical and emotional development.The UN health agency’s new guide for integration of perinatal mental health in maternal and child health services upholds that good mental health can improve health outcomes  and the quality of maternal and child health services for all women.And it compliments other services, including screening, diagnosis and management of PMH conditions into maternal and child health (MCH) – highlighted in the Nurturing Care Framework; WHO recommendations on maternal and newborn care for a positive postnatal experience; and the WHO guideline on improving Early Childhood Development.The guide provides the best available information aimed at supporting MCH providers in identifying symptoms of mental health problems and responding in a way that is adapted to their local and cultural context.

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