Perinatal Mental Heath: #MumTakeOver

By December 1, 2017 The Wider World One Comment

On the 28th of November the BBC and BBC Radio 5 Live were raising awareness for mums and mental health. Mothers everywhere were invited to join in online using the hashtag: #MumTakeOver. They had presenters come in to discuss their own, sometimes difficult experiences of having babies and becoming mothers. The discussion ranged from post-natal depression and anxiety, to work/life balance and tackling loneliness. This was supported by Netmums, Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) and Blackpool Better Start.

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George Bailey
EDIT Lab undergraduate student

More than a third of mothers have experienced mental health issues related to parenthood, according to an online survey of 1,800 British parents by the BBC Radio 5 Live and YouGov. In comparison, 17% of fathers reported similar issues (indicative of the gender divide in reports of mental illness – discussed in a previous blog post) and two-thirds of the mothers experiencing mental health issues sought professional help. These mental health issues include a range of conditions such as perinatal and postpartum anxiety, psychosis and depression, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress.

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“Mothers felt that other parents were the most critical of their parenting”

Many mothers reported feeling criticised by a large number people. Mothers felt that other parents were the most critical of their parenting (26%), followed by their spouse/partner (24%) and other family members (18%). Furthermore, around 30% of mothers reported feelings of discrimination against them in the workplace. The Citizen Advice has seen an increase of 58% in the number of new and expecting mothers discussing maternity leave issues in face to face interviews in the past two years (2,099 in 2013 to 3,307, in 2015).

“around 30% of mothers reported feelings of discrimination against them in the workplace”

The cost of not treating perinatal mental illnesses effectively are significant, making this current lack of support a major public health concern. Untreated perinatal mental illnesses have a wide range of effects on the mental and physical health of women, their children, partners and significant others. They are also one of the leading causes of death for women during pregnancy and the year after birth.

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The economic cost to society of not treating perinatal mental illnesses far outweighs the costs of providing appropriate services. A report conducted in October 2014 by the LSE and the Centre for Learning investigated the costs of perinatal mental health problems. They found that perinatal depression when taken together with anxiety and psychosis carry a total long-term cost of about £1.8 billion for each one year cohort of births in the U.K. This equivocates to the cost of just under £10,000 for every single birth in the country. Out of £1.8 billion, 72% of this cost relates to adverse impacts on the child rather than the mother.

“With the right help and support women can recover from these illnesses.”

Also within this report, it was estimated that between 10 and 20% of women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year after giving birth. The average cost to society per case of perinatal depression is around £74,000, of which around £23,000 relates to the mother and £51,000 relates to impacts on the child. Perinatal anxiety (existing alone and not co-morbid with depression) costs £35,000 per case, where £21,000 relates to the mother and £14,000 to the child. Perinatal psychosis costs around £53,000 per case – but this is thought to be an underestimate because of a lack of evidence relating to the impact on the child.

With the right help and support, women can recover from these illnesses. Maternal Mental Health Alliance is a coalition of organisations within the UK with the aim to see that all women are offered consistent, accessible, high quality care and support for their mental health during pregnancy and the year after having a baby.

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