THE Society for Pre and Post-Natal Services yesterday petitioned Parliament to bear it on the Ministry of Health and Child Care to pay attention to the mental health issues affecting infants and mothers before and after birth.
Linos Muvhu, the organisation’s team leader, told NewsDay that they found it necessary to petition Parliament after noting that pre and post-natal services in government’s health plan only focused on physical health, while ignoring mental health and the emotional well-being of mothers and infants.
“Looking at the national health strategy, we have observed that the focus during pre and post-natal care is only on medical life-threatening issues and physical health such as HIV, and issues to do with mental health and emotional well-being of the pregnant mother and baby are ignored,” Muvhu said.
“Our petition to Parliament calls on the Ministry of Health to promote and implement as part of the national health strategy infant mental health, and pre and post-natal mental health for women, men and their families because if these are ignored, they can jeopardise the mental development of babies and young children.”
Muvhu said even the health cards issued at hospitals and clinics to monitor the health of babies ignored issues of mental development and only concentrated on physical health and immunisation.
“Mental health should be included because there is a lot of stigma associated with it, and in Zimbabwe the emotional well-being of babies and mothers is affected by social problems, domestic violence, drug abuse, and it leads to mental and emotional disorders.
“For instance, if a pregnant woman experiences domestic abuse during pregnancy, they might need proper counselling during pre and post-natal care.
If unchecked, the dangers are that this may lead to mental instability.
Every pregnant woman must be screened for mental health so that they are spiritually, environmentally, socially and physically sound,” he said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that one in every 10 pregnant women is affected by emotional health disorders before, during and after pregnancy, due to depression caused by social problems.
A 2018 report by the WHO says that worldwide, about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience mental disorder, primarily depression.
“In developing countries, this is even higher; that is, 15,5% during pregnancy and 19,8% after childbirth.
In some cases, mothers’ suffering might be so severe that they may even commit suicide.
As a result, the children’s growth and development may be negatively affected as well,” the WHO report said.