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Perinatal mental health: Fathers – the (mostly) forgotten parent

dads mental healthIntroduction

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.

Results

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.

Conclusion

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

EnglishisiXhosa • Afrikaans • French

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Suicide risks among pregnant women and new mothers

To mark World Suicide Prevention Day we’d like to focus on suicidal thoughts during the perinatal period

Mothers’ emotional needs can go undetected during the perinatal period where there is much attention on the baby and women often face multiple difficulties. Studies have shown that women at risk for suicide may be easier identified, by increasing screening of expectant and new mothers for major depression and conflicts with intimate partners. Thus care providers and family may be able to detect symptoms and signs of suicidal thoughts and possibly prevent further distress or the development of suicidal behaviour.

Symptoms and warning signs include 

– Talk of suicide or dying “If I died, would you miss me?” or “It would be better if I were not here or dead.”
– Depressive symptoms, including feelings of guilt, hopelessness or no sense of the future.
– Feeling isolated or wanting to be alone “No one understands me”.
– Obsessive thinking – thinking ‘too much’, especially about harming oneself or dying
– Giving things away (clothes, expensive gifts), “When I am gone, I want you to have this.”

Our recently produced Issue Brief deals with some of the risk factors and unearths some of the myths surrounding suicide during and after pregnancy.

Suicide during pregnancy - myths

Read this and other Issue Briefs on our website

#WSPD16 will be commemorated on 10 September
Join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #WSPD16

Suicide is a major contributor to global death rates and a leading cause of maternal deaths

Suicidal ideation during the perinatal period

Mothers’ emotional needs can go undetected during the perinatal period where there is much attention on the baby. We suggest care providers routinely ask questions about suicidality during mental health or physical health screening.

Our recently produced Issue Brief deals with some of the risk factors and unearths some of the myths surrounding suicide during pregnancy.

Suicide during pregnancy - myths

Read this and other Issue Briefs on our website

Ever wondered what is considered a suicidal thought, ideation, or gesture? Than read this Explanation of Suicidal Thinking In Plain Mama English by Postpartum Progress

 

To screen or not to screen

Screening is the entry point to mental health care.

We recently produced an advisory for primary level screening of mothers for depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation and behaviour in South Africa.

When health providers are not necessarily skilled in other forms of detection and when disorders are not clinically obvious, brief screening is a critical step towards providing mental health support for vulnerable women.

MMH_screening

Read the recommendations on our website.

Another recent study found that women who underwent regular maternal depression screening are more likely to avail of mental healthcare services before, during and after pregnancy.

Read this related article Maternal Depression Screening Is Causing More Women To Avail Of Mental Healthcare Services
in the Parent Herald

Women using alcohol and drugs in pregnancy are often influenced by other difficulties in their lives.

Issue Brief

Alcohol and other drug use in pregnancy

This issue brief was developed as a result of a recent research study looking at alcohol and other drug (AOD) use among pregnant women at Hanover Park (Cape Town, South Africa).

In this study we looked at the profile of women who were using AOD and what factors in their lives were associated with alcohol and drug use. We then interviewed our counsellors to get a better understanding of how they recognise women who are AOD users, and what they do to help them.

This brief summarises some of the findings, such as risk factors, implications for women and advice for healthcare workers to support pregnant women using substances.

RiskFactor_diagramme

(Graph: Risk Factors relating to women’s use of alcohol and other drugs during pregnancy)

“Alcohol and other drugs (AOD) use among pregnant women is associated with poor health outcomes for mothers and children during and after pregnancy. Frequent AOD use has also been linked with low weight gain during pregnancy, less fetal growth, and premature birth. 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.”

Read our latest issue brief here
Interested in other issues relating to pregnancy? Find more briefs on our research pages here.

New pregnancy grant

The PMHP endorses the suggestion of providing the child support grant to pregnant women.

This is in keeping with the evidence that child outcomes are strongly determined by antenatal socio-economic and health conditions. Furthermore, it appears that mothers’ lives may be saved by this much-needed financial support.

“Extending the child support grant to pregnant mothers could help reduce South Africa’s “astonishingly high” maternal mortality rate.”

This is according to research by Wits University health economist Professor Alex van den Heever, commissioned by the Department of Social Development.

Read the full article at Timeslive here

Pregnant Woman

WHO: new guidance on how to provide contraceptive information and service

“In advance of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2014,

WHO is launching new guidance to help countries ensure human rights are respected in providing more girls, women, and couples with the information and services they need to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

An estimated 222 million girls and women who do not want to get pregnant, or who want to delay their next pregnancy, are not using any method of contraception. Access to contraception information and services will allow better planning for families and improved health.

The guidance recommends that everyone who wants contraception should be able to obtain detailed and accurate information, and a variety of services, such as counselling as well as contraceptive products. It also underlines the need for no discrimination, coercion or violence, with special attention given to assuring access to those who are disadvantaged and marginalized.”

via WHO Media Centre

 Download WHO guidance here

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