International Forum for Wellbeing In Pregnancy (IFWIP) is a global initiative to create a society where every single mother (and her family) gets the most recent evidence-based scientific information, care and support with regards to mental health and wellbeing during pregnancy.
This forum aims to achieve this by bringing together everyone from all across the world who has a passion for promoting the health and the wellbeing in pregnancy. This would help in sharing scientific knowledge, expertise, ideas, and resources from everyone who believes in a holistic approach to care during the pregnancy is important to ensure a better outcome, good recovery and a positive experience of pregnancy and parenthood.
This initiative is to reach out to every single pregnant mother, partner, and the family to inform them about the importance of mental wellbeing during the pregnancy and beyond. This would encourage them to adopt practices which could help in coping with stress better, reduce the incidence of severe mental health illnesses and ensure early recovery. This would also provide resources for more information and support.
Importance of mental wellbeing in pregnancy
Mental health and wellbeing should constitute an essential component of the care of the mother during every pregnancy. This is regardless of whether she had experienced any mental health illness before pregnancy or in any previous pregnancy.
This is due to the following reasons:
Achieving optimum health of the mother
The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health in its 1948 constitution as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Therefore this should also apply to the provision of comprehensive pregnancy care during every pregnancy for the optimum outcome for the mother and the child. This could be essential to establish a strong foundation for happy and fulfilling life. But sadly addressing the mental health has remained neglected in many pregnancy care pathway all around the world.
Reducing suffering and loss of life
Suicide as a result of serious mental health illnesses is still one of the biggest killers of new mothers all over the world. According to the WHO, for every death of the mother, there are 150 ‘near misses’, therefore the death statistics are just ‘the tip of the iceberg’. Optimum information and interventions could certainly prevent the loss of many valuable lives.
It is estimated that 10-15% mothers suffer from Perinatal Mental Health (PMH) conditions. It is now considered that depression and anxiety are equally prevalent during pregnancy period as of post-childbirth time. Therefore this is one of the most common health conditions during pregnancy.
‘Just as the body changes in pregnancy, so can the mind’ (MBRRACE-UK)
Mental wellbeing and care are important for every single woman during their pregnancy
Reducing pregnancy complications
There is scientific evidence to suggest that antenatal stress can lead to pregnancy complications such as:
– Premature labour
– growth restriction of the developing fetus in the mother’s womb. Therefore achieving the optimum mental wellbeing could potentially reduce such untoward complications.
Achieving optimum family health
We now know that how the events of pregnancy could have an impact on the:
– Mental health of the partner
– Marital relationship
Achieving the optimum health of the infant/ child
Ensuring mental wellbeing of the pregnant mothers could ensure good physical and mental health of the future generations to come. Stress/ mental illnesses can lead to many physical, neurodevelopmental and cognitive problems through its effect on fetal programming. Therefore it is important for the health and well-being of the future generation of the human society.
Achieving optimum postnatal mental health
Untreated mental health problems during pregnancy could lead to increased chance of postnatal mental health conditions such as Postnatal depression and Postpartum Psychosis. For example, one-third cases of Postnatal Depression (PND), it is the continuation of depression during pregnancy.
Achieving good health for the future
Pregnancy is a great opportunity to reflect and consider healthy lifestyle changes which would be beneficial for the rest of the life. Asking mothers about their mental health could disclose conditions which have never been addressed
Reducing health expenditure
The cost of untreated Perinatal Mental health illnesses could be huge. For example, a report published by London School of Economics (LSE) showed that UK National Health Service (NHS) spent £8.1 billion every year to deal with the consequences of Perinatal Mental Health (PNH) illnesses.
Almost three-quarters of this are, in fact, spent for the care and treatment of the consequences of the maternal mental health conditions to the children.
Whereas, only £375 million per year is needed to be invested to provide care for PMH conditions according to the national standard. This saving could be invested somewhere else for the betterment of the society.
This is a statistics from the UK and could reflect the gravity of the cost in many other countries of the world.
The DREAM approach
As the stress and mental health conditions during pregnancy could have an adverse impact on so many factors, it is important that we take a comprehensive approach to focus on every single aspect during the care of the mother during pregnancy.
Consultant Obstetrician, Dr Raja Gangopadhyay, feels that one of the ways to remember to include and highlight this holistic approach is through the mnemonic – DREAM
This is just for convenience purpose and every health professional caring for pregnant mothers should have their own. But most importantly, we must have a comprehensive and multidisciplinary strategy to consider all possible adverse consequences of stress and mental illnesses during pregnancy.