Pregnancy and childbirth are normal life events, with a range of emotions throughout this journey, however these normal emotions can be complicated by disturbances in mental wellbeing.
A mental health condition is considered a disability if it has a long-term effect on normal day-to-day activity. This is defined under the Equality Act 2010. The condition is ‘long term’ if it lasts, or is likely to last, 12 months. ‘Normal day-to-day activity’ is defined as something that is done regularly in a normal day. This includes things like using a computer, working set times or interacting with people.
Perinatal mental health (PMH) is the overarching term for mental health during pregnancy and the first postnatal year. It can be characterised by either an existing mental health issue or a condition that arises during pregnancy, or related to pregnancy.
Evidence from the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that worldwide about 10 percent of pregnant women and 13 percent of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression. In developing countries this is even higher, i.e. 15.6 percent during pregnancy and 19.8 percent after child birth. In severe cases mothers’ suffering might be so severe that they may die by suicide. See: Maternal mental health.
Mental health in pregnancy
This information is written for midwives, nurses and healthcare professionals caring for:
- any woman who has mental health problems during pregnancy
- any pregnant woman who has had a mental health problem in the past
- and their partner, family and friends.
Mental health in pregnancy, produced by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (2018) provides useful information on:
- mental health problems in pregnancy
- how to stay well during pregnancy and after the birth of your baby
- how to decide whether or not to take medication in pregnancy
- what help and support there is during pregnancy and have a mental health problem.