New UN guide helps support perinatal mental healthcare in ‘stigma-free’ environment |


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), life-changing moments like pregnancy, childbirth and early parenthood can be stressful for women and their partners.

It can trigger a period of poor mental health or worsen previous mental health conditions.

In addition, among women with perinatal mental illness — just before and just after childbirth — about 20 percent will have suicidal thoughts or harm themselves, according to the WHO.

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Leadership with cultural sensitivity

Ignoring mental fitness not only jeopardizes women’s overall health and well-being, it also impacts infants’ physical and emotional development.

The UN health agency’s new guidance on integrating perinatal mental health into maternal and child health services confirms that good mental health can improve health outcomes and the quality of maternal and child health services for all women.

And it complements other services, including screening, diagnosis and management of PMH diseases in relation to maternal and child health (MCH) – highlighted in care frame; WHO recommendations on maternal and newborn care for a positive postnatal experience; and the WHO guideline on improving early childhood development.

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The guide provides the best information available to support MCH providers in recognizing symptoms of mental health problems and responding in a way that is adapted to their local and cultural context.

planning guide

“The guide provides an evidence-based approach for planning the integration of perinatal mental health care into MCH services and assessing its impact,” the UN health agency said.

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WHO explained that effective integration requires, for example, a core team responsible for monitoring, a situational analysis and a needs assessment to identify a viable package of interventions that meet the needs of women during the perinatal period, and appropriate training and monitoring of staff responsible for the perinatal period provision of services required.

“MCH services during the perinatal period represent a unique opportunity to support women in a respectful and stigma-free environment,” said the UN health authority.

This, in turn, leads to greater participation and engagement in caring for women and their babies, and greater welfare and progress in society.





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