World Mental Health Day - Exploring healthcare providers knowledge and attitudes towards screening for maternal mental health

News article 10 Oct 2019
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10th October is World Mental Health Day, an important day that aims to raise awareness of mental health issues globally and mobilise action to support mental health.

The team at the Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health (CMNH) recognises the importance of this day. Maternal mental health is an international public health concern, and part of our research portfolio focuses on the mental health of women who are pregnant or who have just given birth. The team’s latest research paper exploring maternal mental health in Ghana has just been published in BMC Psychiatry: “I just wish it becomes part of routine care”: healthcare providers’ knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of screening for maternal mental health during and after pregnancy: a qualitative study.

Many women experience mental health disorders during and after pregnancy. In Ghana, it is not known how many women suffer from maternal health disorders, but evidence from other low- and middle-income countries show that they can affect 15.6% of women during pregnancy and 19.8% of women after childbirth. When a mother’s mental health is compromised, it is associated with adverse outcomes for both her and her baby. This is therefore an important area to gather evidence and understand more clearly.

This qualitative study explored the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of routine screening for maternal mental health during and after pregnancy among healthcare providers providing routine maternity care in Ghana. To gather data, the team held interviews with 20 healthcare providers, and one focus group discussion. The results highlighted that most healthcare providers are aware of the importance of maternal mental health and would be keen to help women who experience mental ill-health during and after pregnancy, if resources were available to do so. However, mental ill-health screening is currently not part of routine maternity care. The findings suggests that improving the situation for women will require further training and reprioritisation of workloads for healthcare providers, and education to change the attitudes of healthcare providers, women and the wider community towards mental health. The authors also recommend development and implementation of culturally appropriate guidelines for healthcare providers.

Dr Mary McCauley, Academic Clinical Lecturer, one of the researchers behind this study:
“I believe it is really important that maternity care is given to women in a way that is holistic, comprehensive and meets their individual needs. This study indicates that healthcare providers working in low-resource settings need more support to be able to screen for and manage maternal mental health conditions. Many congratulations to Ms Abigail Brown who developed this work as part of her Master’s in International Public Health at LSTM”.

 

Photo Credit: Mental Heatlh Foundation: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/world-mental-health-day