New UN guide helps support perinatal mental health care in a ‘stigma-free’ environment

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), life-changing moments such as pregnancy, birth and early parenthood can be stressful for women and their partners.

It can cause a period of poor mental health or lead to a worsening of previous mental illnesses.

In addition, about 20 percent of women with perinatal mental illness — just before and shortly after giving birth — will have thoughts of suicide or commit suicide, according to the WHO.

Guiding with cultural sensitivity

Ignoring mental fitness not only endangers the overall health and well-being of women, but also affects the physical and emotional development of babies.

The UN Health Agency’s new guide to the integration of perinatal mental health into maternal and child health confirms that good mental health can improve health outcomes and the quality of maternal and child health care for all women.

And it complements other services, including screening, diagnosis and management of maternal and child health (MCH) PMH disorders – highlighted in the Nursing Care Framework; WHO recommendations on maternal and neonatal care for a positive postnatal experience; and the WHO guideline on improving early childhood development.

The guide 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.

planning guide

“The guide provides an evidence-based approach for planning the integration of perinatal mental health services into MCH services and assessing its impact,” the UN Health Agency said.

For example, the WHO outlined that effective integration requires a core team responsible for monitoring, a situational and needs assessment to identify a viable package of interventions that meet the needs of women during the perinatal period, and adequate training and supervision of the staff to provide services.

“MCH services during the perinatal period offer a unique opportunity to support women in a respectful and stigma-free environment,” the UN health agency said.

This in turn leads to greater attendance and involvement in the care of women and their babies and greater well-being and progress of society.





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