The WHO presented the Guide for Integration of Perinatal Mental Health in Maternal and Child Health Services to help maternal and child health (MCH) care providers, policy makers and other actors to offer adequate mental health services for women during the perinatal period.
“Everyone has the right to good mental health and appropriate treatment. All women should benefit from healthcare that is respectful and free from abuse,” says WHO.
The first part of the guide covers perinatal mental health. During pregnancy the risk of mental illness increases and out of every five women, one will experience a mental health issue during pregnancy. Anxiety and depression are the most common affections, occurring in about 15 percent of women during the pregnancy and the postnatal period. In Mexico, from the total of obstetric clinics that offer mental health services, only 37 percent have depression detection protocols and 40 percent have strategies to provide medical care to depression cases, as reported by INSP.
Poor mental health during pregnancy is linked to risks of obstetric complications and suicide. Lack of social support, unintended pregnancy, domestic violence, socioeconomic context, marital status and prenatal mental health risks are some of the most common factors associated with mental health problems during pregnancy. To diminish the impact of those risk factors, mental health care ought to be fortified through educational and labor opportunities and strong social support.
“Mental health is not merely the absence of mental health conditions but a state of wellness in which individuals can realize their potential, cope with everyday stress and contribute to their community,” states the guide.
For an effective provision of care, the WHO suggests a stepped-care approach. To achieve this, the WHO exhorts providers to generate supportive environments and to work on prevention of mental health risks. Moreover, the guide highlights the importance of offering treatment to those presenting mild symptoms of mental health conditions and referring those with moderate-to-severe symptoms to specialist care. Medication provided by specialists is also essential.
Additionally, the guide offers information about the integration of programs tailored to the specific needs of vulnerable groups. To ensure that the implemented practices are successful, the WHO also suggests ways to monitor and evaluate those programs, which has to be done as the plans are implemented.
“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,” says WHO.