Almost 1 in 5 women will experience a mental health condition during pregnancy or in the year after the birth. Among women with perinatal health conditions, 20% will experience suicidal thoughts or undertake acts of self-harm. Ignoring health not only risks women’s overall health and well-being, but also impacts infants’ physical and emotional development.
The importance of screening, diagnosis and management of PMH conditions into maternal and child health (MCH) services has been highlighted in the Nurturing Care Framework, the WHO recommendations on maternal and newborn care for a positive postnatal experience and the WHO guideline on improving Early Childhood Development.
This new WHO guide for integration of perinatal mental health in maternal and child health services 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. The guide provides an evidence-informed approach for planning integration of perinatal mental healthcare into MCH services and assessing its impact. Effective integration requires for example a core team responsible for overseeing the integration, a situation analysis and needs assessment to identify a feasible package of interventions that meet women’s needs during the perinatal period, and adequate training and supervision of workforce to deliver services.
MCH services during the perinatal period represent a unique opportunity to support women in a respectful and stigma-free environment, leading to increased attendance and better engagement in care for women and their babies and to greater well-being and advancement of society.