Working together to improve perinatal mental health in Scotland

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The period just after giving birth is a critical time for mothers, fathers, and babies. Estimates of the incidence of perinatal mental illness and distress suggest that 10-20% of women will experience mental health problems during pregnancy or in the 12 months after birth.

It is estimated that up to 10% of fathers may also develop mental health problems during this time, an issue that has recently been addressed by the national media. The consequences of poor mental health and distress in women can be catastrophic: mental health disorders are the leading cause of direct maternal death in the 12 months after birth. Whilst for babies, poor parental mental health can lead to adverse childhood experiences, which may have far reaching impacts on the physical safety and mental development of children.

PNMH incorporates a wide range of experiences from pre-existing mental health disorders, to pre and post birth anxiety and depression, birth trauma and pregnancy bereavement. Early and appropriate intervention is desperately needed to help those at risk of developing mental health disorders, and those with existing mental health problems to prevent further deterioration.

A 2019 perinatal mental health services needs assessment report put forth a list of 28 recommendations. The recommendations included a need for all NHS boards to have community specialist perinatal mental health provision and a parent-infant mental health lead to co-ordinate evidence-based interventions. The Scottish Government (SG) committed £50 million to the improvement of these services and a Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Programme Board was established in March 2019 to drive forward the implementation of the recommendations and oversee and manage the £50 million investment. In addition, a parliamentary Inquiry into perinatal mental health9 published this year (February 2022) lays out 55 recommendations, with a particular focus on early identification of perinatal mental health issues and how services should be designed and delivered. The provision of integrated care, across sectors, provided by a well-trained workforce was deemed critical.

Clearly there is a societal, service, community and individual need for improved perinatal mental health care.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDundee
PublisherUniversity of Dundee
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


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