‘10% pregnant women suffer from mental disorders’

‘10% pregnant women suffer from mental disorders’

NEW DELHI: According to the latest report from The Lancet, about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have recently given birth suffer from mental disorders globally.

These include depression, anxiety, and psychosis, with a higher prevalence observed in low- and middle-income countries.

Suicide, strongly associated with mental health conditions, is a leading cause of death during the perinatal period in high-income countries, accounting for 5-20% of maternal deaths, as stated in The Lancet Regional Health - Europe.

The numbers are likely higher in low- and middle-income countries, where suicide often goes unreported and is overshadowed by inadequate care for obstetric complications.

The report highlights that this is a “neglected issue,” noting that up to 85% of women experience so-called baby blues, characterized by symptoms such as prolonged crying, sadness, and anxiety.

“Perinatal mental health conditions can significantly impact maternal and child wellbeing, hindering bonding, caregiving, and healthy development, which can have long-term consequences on a child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional growth, affecting families and future generations,” the report states.

Urgent action is needed to address the stigma and systemic barriers surrounding maternal mental health to ensure that all women receive comprehensive support and care during this critical period of their lives.

The report emphasizes the importance of screening for mental health symptoms to identify women who need assistance, since 70% of women hide or downplay their symptoms due to stigma and a lack of awareness, leading to unaccounted, undetected, and untreated cases.

It further notes that addressing the stigma surrounding perinatal mental health requires essential approaches, including raising awareness about these conditions, fostering open discussions, and ensuring readily available support and resources for affected individuals.

Addressing systemic barriers to support mothers requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses early identification of mental health conditions, preventive interventions, and effective treatments to promote maternal and child wellbeing throughout the perinatal period.

Few approved pharmacological treatments exist for perinatal mental disorders, and conducting clinical trials for novel drugs in this population is challenging due to safety and ethical concerns for pregnant or breastfeeding women, which hampers progress in research.