Category Archives: Parental Mental Health
The importance of parental mental health as a determinant of infant and child outcomes is increasingly acknowledged. Yet, there is limited information regarding paternal mental health during the perinatal period. The aim of this review is to summarise existing clinical research regarding paternal mental health in the perinatal period in various contexts, and its possible impact on infant development.
Men are at increased risk of mental health problems during the transition to fatherhood, as well as during the perinatal period. Paternal mental health during the perinatal period has been shown to impact on their child’s emotional and behavioural development. However, research addressing the needs of fathers with mental illness and the impact of their illness on their infant and family has been limited.
A paradigm shift is required, from a focus on women following childbirth and women with pre-existing psychiatric disorders to a broader family perspective with the focus firmly on parent-infant relationships. This paradigm shift needs to involve greater research into the fathering role and paternal mental illness during the perinatal period, including further studies into risk factors, impact on the family system, and the most appropriate form of intervention and service provision.
The full research review is available on Wiley Online Library
In our resource library, you can find information for future fathers in four different languages
It’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month in some parts of the world
We want to emphasise that sex-education can prevent teenage pregnancy, but let’s not forget a teen mom is not only struggling with the normal issues of being a teenager, yet another part is facing the responsibilities of an adult!
Teenage pregnancy rates in South Africa are high, with around 30% of teenagers in the country reporting ever having been pregnant. According to the 2015 annual school survey, over 15,000 pupils fell pregnant during the academic year. This is nearly triple the worldwide rate of pregnancy in teenagers.
The psychological impact of pregnancy on teenagers is pronounced; adolescents are twice as likely as adults to experience postpartum depression. Another concern is the lack of education, with only about a third of pregnant girls in South Africa going on to finish their schooling. Incomplete education and lack of skills make it difficult for these young women to find work in order to support themselves and their children.
There are a number of physical ramifications to teenage pregnancy – unsafe abortions, for example, can cause injury or death. As a whole, complications during pregnancy and birth are the second leading cause of death for adolescent girls worldwide. But it’s not only them that face serious risks during this period – their babies also have a much higher risk of dying than those born to older mothers.
One way of decreasing the risks to both mother and child is by making skilled antenatal, childbirth and postnatal care available in a safe, teen-friendly environment. This should include counselling with the intent of providing emotional support, mobilising potential resources, and teaching important information about childcare.
Further readings: Pregnancy – a guide for teens
A guide to pregnancy, giving birth, and life as a mom for teens
Written by: Meagan Dill, PMHP volunteer
Crosspost from World Maternal Mental Health day blog by Josee Grenier
In my experience through Postpartum Depression and Anxiety it felt like every fear and trauma I had ever experienced was fresh in my mind. It’s like PPD’s ugly hand had reached deep into my heart in the ‘trauma’ area and just started pulling at things and ‘stirring the pot’.
I remember some days just laying on the couch completely exhausted from the onslaught of painful thoughts and emotions. I felt like someone also pushed the ‘off’ switch on all my filters and coping skills. I had zero ability to sort through or process all the thoughts and emotions I was experiencing. I remember spending a lot of time trying to process every thought and feeling as though I could solve this problem through understanding my feelings. It was exhausting and often it would make my anxiety so much worse. It also felt like unless I could miraculously heal from every trauma I had ever experienced, I would never be OK.
I felt like I must be experiencing all of this emotional distress because I had done something wrong or had neglected to do something good. I felt broken and like there was no hope that I could ever ‘fix’ this. […]
Alcohol and other drugs (AOD) use among pregnant women is associated with poor health outcomes for mothers and children.
Research has found that South Africa has one of the highest prevalence rates for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in the world. Alcohol, crack/cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine are the most abused substances in South Africa, with alcohol abuse being the most significant problem.
Maternal mental distress and AOD use in pregnancy often result in a cycle of dependency.
BUT, there are new the cross-cutting approaches that can maximize engagement and positive outcomes while mitigating potential harms.
Mothers who take alcohol and other substances during pregnancy often don’t attend antenatal clinic because they fear judgement by healthcare workers. If a mother does attend it’s important to keep her in the system by making a special effort to create a positive relationship with her, through empathic communication. You can encourage her to return to the clinic more frequently than other mothers, affirm the things she is doing well and help her to make informed choices.
Healthcare workers are better able to mitigate harm if the mother is retained in the system!
For more information see our Issue Brief on Alcohol and other drug use in pregnancy
The PMHP identified a major obstacle to providing mental health care: the relevant mental health screening tool validated for our setting
The high prevalence of maternal depression in South Africa requires that maternal mental health screening, performed routinely and on-site, be logistically feasible and responsive to the local risk factors which may influence mental distress. To address this gap, we have developed a brief 5-question screening tool to identify symptoms of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.
The study was based at our Hanover Park site. Women attending the maternity service were screened, offered counselling if required and referred to social support services where appropriate. Screening included the PMHP’s risk factor assessment, as well as several other risk and mood screens which are being assessed against a diagnostic gold standard. The most robust screening items were identified for inclusion in a valid, responsive and pragmatic new tool which may be used in limited-resource settings.
Overview of the Hanover Park maternal mental health screening study
In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), competing health priorities, civil conflict, and a lack of political will mean that expenditure on mental health is a fraction of that needed to meet the mental health care needs of the population.
For mothers, this treatment gap is most notable in regions where health agendas focus on maternal mortality indicators.
Who is at risk of perinatal mental health disorder?
Common mental disorders during pregnancy and in the first year after birth are associated with certain risk factors. These include poverty, migration, extreme stress, exposure to violence (domestic, sexual and gender-based), previous history of mental disorders, alcohol and other drug use as well as low social support.
In South Africa, there is a very high prevalence of adolescent pregnancies with 39% of 15- to 19-year old girls being pregnant at least once. When adolescent mothers suffer from depression, the likelihood of a subsequent teenage pregnancy nearly doubles.
How to address maternal mental illness among economically disadvantaged parents?
Integration of services!
Mothers in many settings are using maternal and child health services as well as social services. Thus, detection and access will increase if maternal health screening and services are integrated into these public care platforms.
How to implement a maternal mental health intervention in low-resource settings?
We are sharing our lessons learned in this learning brief.
We have also developed a Service Development Guidelines which demonstrates how to develop a mental health intervention at your facility, even with limited resources.
Find more free & open access resources for professionals on our website
And what about dads?
Postnatal depression can affect dads too. Find out about common concerns for new dads and discover helpful tips on how they can become more involved. We compiled a leaflet with information that could help you be better prepared for what is happening. The leaflets are available in
The most common mental health condition to affect perinatal women and mothers worldwide are depression and anxiety.
These illnesses impact thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Routine antenatal and postpartum health services provide an opportunity for heightened and psychologically informed mental health care. Even in the poorest countries, there is some provision for antenatal, perinatal, postpartum, and infant health care and other primary health care services.
Interventions to improve maternal mental health and related child survival, health and development can be integrated into these existing services.
At the PMHP service delivery sites, we provide routine screening for pregnant women and girls for depression and anxiety at the first antenatal visit. If they show signs or are at risk of depression or anxiety, free on-site psychosocial counselling, follow-up and case management is provided by our trained counsellors for up to one-year post delivery.
The PMHP model is based on a stepped care approach, which means that referrals are made to psychiatric services when necessary
Learn more about our integrated, stepped-care, collaborative service model, implemented through task sharing.
This post is crossposted By Analía Sierra
When our eyes met
At first everything was new, I did not know what to expect. I got at the end of those nine months without enough information but with all the excitement and expectation that would be the most important moment of my life.
I had many fears, and they all were reason for my hospitalization- I have always been a healthy woman and have never been in a similar situation- My concern about that was big, I have never liked the idea of going through a surgery and this was the closest I was going to be to a surgery room … In my mind I had the old phrases , which grandmothers and mothers say, “You will forget everything, … it is a special moment and such a joy when you deliver your child all pains stops” … When the moment arrived, everything went slowly. They were long 11 hour of waiting … waiting for something I wasn’t sure what or who, if the anesthetist, the obstetrician or my child deigns to leave …
Analía’s blog is also available Spanish
Make your voice heard!
Tell your story to help raise awareness for maternal mental health issues so that more women will get treatment and fewer will suffer. Submit your blog here
Source: When our eyes met – WMMH Day
The second in a series of blogs by Dr Robert Nettleton, Education Advisor, Institute of Health Visiting, on his travels to Cape Town, South Africa through his Florence Nightingale Foundation Travel Scholarship 2017. He met our director, Simone Honikman, and our clinical team at Mowbray Maternity Hospital:
“The connection between a ‘trauma-informed’ approach and infant and perinatal mental health was obvious from my visit to the Perinatal Mental Health Project team at Mowbray Maternity Hospital, led by Simone Honikman.
There is an ‘epidemic of mental distress among women living in adversity’. Alongside wealth, there are extensive townships or informal settlements that are a legacy of the apartheid era in which, for example, 50% of women are HIV positive and levels of domestic, gender-based and sexual violence are high, as is poverty. Providing for accessible front-line assessment of mental health distress is a priority, through providing training to a range of workers and also within the community through ‘social connectors’ (I’ll learn about this more next week).
A challenge that resonated for me was about promoting quality and consistency in a fragmented system where there is also a heavy reliance on separate NPOs (not-for-profits) as providers of services.
Two key learnings for me were:
- The importance of what Simone calls ‘self-care’ – what we might call supervision with a substantial restorative component. I met, briefly, Charlotte who provides counselling out of a cubby-hole of an office in a maternity hospital. Her heart was bigger than her office! Maintaining resilience is something that we know is important, and the ‘Sollihull Approach’, while not rolled out in Cape Town, was something that colleagues recognised as applicable.
- The dilemma of seeking to deliver a quality service within a very low-resource environment. This resonated with me as we face resource pressures in the UK. We discussed and reflected on what would be the essential elements of a service (the ‘active ingredients’ or ‘programme mechanisms’) and what could be delegated or substituted without placing effectiveness at risk. The ability to form effective empathic relationships is one of those essential elements common to both South Africa and the UK, as is support and supervision.”
Misconceptions regarding maternal depression are obstacles to the integration of mental health initiatives in Maternal and Child Health (MCH) programmes.
The myths about maternal mental health include the beliefs that: maternal depression is rare, not relevant to MCH programmes, can only be treated by specialists, and its incorporation into MCH programmes is difficult.
Fact is that: Maternal Depression is the second-leading cause of disease burden in women worldwide, following infections and parasitic diseases
In the second article of a five-part series providing a global perspective on integrating mental health, Atif Rahman and colleagues argue that integrating maternal mental health care will help advance maternal and child health.
This can be achieved by collaboration between policy makers in mental health and those in MCH for action that will advance maternal and child health status. And by linking strategies to improve maternal mental health to broader development goals, including poverty reduction and gender empowerment.