Early parenthood is now identified by many people as one of the most stressful and isolating periods in life. A major international study recently concluded that 20% of mothers and at least 10% of new fathers currently suffer from post-natal depression.
In the UK, the Mental Health Foundation reported in 2015 that 50% of women still do no report maternal health issues and more than a third of new fathers questioned for a National Childbirth Trust survey in 2013-14 revealed they are concerned about their own mental health.
In 2014, a report by the London School of Economics and the Centre for Mental Health estimated that the cost of perinatal mental health issues to the UK economy is about 8.1 billion pounds per year, which works out as the equivalent of £10,000 per birth. In recent years, robust evidence has also been presented about the impact of maternal mental health issues on the physical and psychological development of infants.
As a result, it became a key UK government focus in 2015 to establish and implement ways to ensure that any (potential) maternal mental health issues are detected as early as possible by GPs, midwifes and other health workers. Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that an influential government appointed health panel recommended that the USA too screens women for mental illness before and after giving birth.
The focus of perinatal mental health policy on the early detection, rather than on the possible causes and prevention of certain problems, is an interesting one. It ignores all non-biological (non-physical) factors that may contribute to the onset of certain perinatal health problems. Importantly, it also fails to take fathers and their experiences into account. As a result, many important studies on paternal perinatal mental health, which could provide key insights into the cultural and other non-biological factors behind the development of certain key maternal perinatal mental health issues are missed.
In response to this, DIEP will be exploring the potential correlation between:
* the treatment and representation of pregnancy and birth practices by the medical profession and the commercial industries;
* the recent increase in mothers’ as well as fathers’ mental health problems before and after birth;
* the extent to which certain key maternal mental health issues may be cultural rather than biological and;
* the possibility of preventing the onset of certain perinatal mental health problems altogether.
If you feel you have written important work or are in the process of conducting academic or independent research which relates strongly to any aspect of the above or adds to the debate on DETECTION vs PREVENTION; SHIFTING PERINATAL MENTAL HEALTH POLICY in any other way, you may want to apply to become a DIEP Research Fellow. Please click on the image below to download the application form for more information.