During the perinatal period (from conception through the first year after childbirth), some 20 percent of mothers suffer mental health problems, according to the Centre for Mental Health in the United Kingdom. Perinatal mental health problems are considered an important health issue because they not only affect mothers, but have also been shown to compromise the healthy emotional, cognitive, and physical development of their children.
Most previous work focused on postnatal depression, but mental health problems often occur prior to birth and include serious conditions such as:
- Psychosis (bipolar disorder and schizophrenia)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
For each one-year cohort of births in the United Kingdom, researchers estimated that depression, anxiety, and psychosis carry costs of £8.1 billion, equivalent to a cost of almost £10,000 for every single birth in the country. Perinatal anxiety alone costs about £53,000 per case. More than one fifth of the cost is born by the public sector.
If untreated, perinatal mental health illnesses can have a devastating impact on women and their families and in fact are one of the leading causes of death among mothers during pregnancy and the year following birth.
Here in the United States, according to Mental Health America, it is imperative that we deal with “our appallingly high infant mortality rates and the evidence they reveal of a medical care system that is failing to meet the needs of parents and very young children. As of 2011, the U.S. ranked 34th in the world [in infant mortality], with 6.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.”
Mothers, newborns, families, and the public sector are all affected by perinatal mental health problems. These issues can compromise an otherwise nurturing home environment for newborns and often result in the silent suffering of mothers.