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Perinatal Depression: 1 in 4 pregnant women suffering

There is more awareness of postnatal depression, but have you heard of perinatal depression?

The definition of perinatal depression is mental health issues experienced during pregnancy and up to a year following the birth of a baby.

So, you have probably heard of more specific prenatal and postnatal depression. Prenatal referring to before birth and postnatal refers to after birth.

A study by King’s College London suggests that 1 in 4 pregnant women suffers from perinatal depression.

Study reveals depression, anxiety and eating disorders in pregnant women

Researchers at King’s College London undertook a study using a gold-standard psychological screening technique at midwife appointments.

They found:

  • 11 % of the pregnant women had depression
  • 15 % had anxiety
  • 2 % had eating disorders
  • 2 % obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • Many women have combinations of different mental health issues

The symptoms tend to be missed. People wrongly believe that pregnant women experience “feel-good glow” when they become pregnant.

Often believed postnatal is trigger when in fact it's often prenatal

Professor Louise Howard, of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, says that the feel-good glow is a myth.

“People think that pregnancy is protective of mental health, and then the post-natal period is a trigger for problems. But in reality problems start during pregnancy or even earlier – it is very common.’

She said the study supports a recommendation by health watchdog NICE. Women should be asked by a non-judgemental health professional, during pregnancy and after birth, about their emotional well-being.

Mothers are afraid to admit mental health problems

Stephen Buckley, head of information at charity Mind, says: "There is some evidence which suggests many women are afraid to tell health visitors about the way they are feeling because they are afraid it will lead to social services taking away their children, or that they would be seen as bad mothers.

"Pregnant women may also find it difficult to tell people they are feeling bad because they might feel like they are under pressure to be happy and excited, on top of everything and showing they are a good parent.

"People with mental health problems can and do make good parents, but it's vital anyone who is expecting is able to access the help and support they need."

Five Year Forward View for Mental Health

NHS England states that it commits to fulfilling the ambition in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. With that, by 2020/21 there will be increased access to specialist perinatal mental health support. This is in all areas of England, allowing at least an additional 30,000 women each year to receive evidence-based treatment. It aims to be closer to home when they need it. This includes the right range of specialist community and inpatient care.

On NHS England’s website it states that a phased, five-year transformation programme is underway. With £365 million backing the aim is:

  • To build capacity and capability in specialist perinatal mental health services
  • Focus on improving access to and experience of care
  • Improve early diagnosis and intervention
  • Greater transparency and openness

We welcome these changes and hope that pregnant woman across the country will soon feel more supported in their plight to deal with perinatal mental health issues.

Here at Swain & Co Solicitors our specialist Mental Health Lawyers have represented many patients detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended) who have suffered a form of perinatal or postnatal mental health issues.

Swain & Co Solicitors work tirelessly to assist vulnerable people and ensure that their rights under the Mental Health Act are observed.  If you, a family member or friend are experiencing problems or are detained under the Mental Health Act contact our team today on 02392 483322. 

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