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NGO warns of childbirth mental health threat

Local News

THE Society for Pre- and Post-Natal Services (Spans) has called on government and other stakeholders to deal with mental health issues associated with childbirth.

Latest statistics by the World Health Organisation indicate that more than 30 million women and babies could die by 2030, more than half of them in sub-Saharan Africa if attitudes on mental health do not change.

Spans secretary and chief talent leader Linos Muvhu told NewsDay yesterday that research conducted by his organisation indicated that common perinatal mental disorders are the most frequent complications during pregnancy, childbirth and the post-partum period.

He said their prevalence among women in low- and middle-income countries was the highest at nearly 20%.

“Women are the cornerstone of a healthy and prosperous society and until their mental health is taken as seriously as their physical wellbeing, we will not improve maternal mortality, morbidity and the ability of women to thrive,” Muvhu said.

“Perinatal health issues for a long time have been a silent burden, but it’s an important aspect in achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs) and reducing the maternal and morbidity rates.

“Women have never been treated or screened for perinatal mental health issues, but it’s important to note that the mental health wellness of the child and mother is important as defined by WHO standards."

Muvhu said in order for the country to mitigate mortality rates by 2030, mental health must be included in maternal healthcare.

"There is need for intensive mental health education to the public during pre- and post-natal care visits. On the heels of several international efforts to put perinatal mental health on the global agenda, we propose seven urgent actions that the international community, governments, health systems, academia, civil society, and individuals should take to ensure that women everywhere have access to high-quality, respectful care for both their physical and mental wellbeing. Addressing perinatal mental health promotion, prevention, early intervention and treatment of common perinatal mental disorders must be a global priority," he said.

There have been several global efforts to end pre- and post-maternal morbidity with the 2014 Lancet Commission on Perinatal Mental Health calling for the inclusion of perinatal healthcare in all mental health programmes.

In 2018, the Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health and Sustainable Development warned that the abysmally slow response to addressing mental health would lead to missing Sustainable Development Goal 3.4, which targets promotion of mental health and wellbeing.

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