by NADEEM BADSHAH
THE mental health crisis among pregnant women needs to be addressed by ministers, experts have urged.
Charities have highlighted the cultural stigma faced by south Asian expectant mums in seeking help and services not being tailored for BAME communities. New research has revealed UK mums are at breaking point with 70 per cent saying they experienced psychological problems during or after pregnancy.
The research by The Baby Show, which takes place on Friday (28) until Sunday (1) in London, found that the most common issue was anxiety suffered by over a third of women followed by the baby blues and post-natal depression.
Of the 1,000 new and expectant mums polled, 89 per cent think the government needs to invest more money into helping new parents with their mental health.
Sarah McMullen, director of parent services at charity NCT, told Eastern Eye: “These new statistics don’t surprise us. They very much echo NCT research for our #HiddenHalf campaign which found that half of mothers experienced mental health problems at some time during pregnancy or within the first year of their children’s birth.
“We hear of many material and cultural barriers women of south Asian origin may face which prevent them getting help with perinatal mental illness. There may, for example, be a lack of awareness or stigma attached to such problems within their particular south Asian community. For some mothers, language barriers or difficulties navigating the UK healthcare system can also play a part.
“To further complicate matters, women from Asian communities may not receive appropriate mental health support because of a lack of awareness of cultural issues or insensitive health services. This could lead to problems building good relationships with healthcare practitioners.”
Among the speakers at The Baby Show at the ExCeL Arena are consultant psychiatrist Dr Sarah Vohra and Neev Spencer, a broadcaster and mental health campaigner.
Spencer said every mother will experience some form of baby blues including low moods, extreme fatigue to more severe symptoms.
The TV and radio presenter told Eastern Eye: “Hormonal imbalance is the cause of this condition and it will usually show itself within those varying forms in the first two weeks post baby or four months post-birth.
“Many factors influence this from a history of depression, a traumatic birth or extenuating circumstances post postpartum but preparation and knowledge is key in preventing things spiralling. Educating your partner, family member or friends in how to spot the early signs of postnatal depression and anxiety is crucial as you yourself with most likely be unable to be aware of them.”
“Early signals are a total lack of energy, not looking or bonding with baby, not wanting to hold or care for your child. Loss of sense of humour, appetite and the want to socialise or go out is again all symptoms.
“Avoiding eye contact, becoming withdrawn, irritability, angry outbursts and constant crying are sure signs that it’s time to get some support. Once you’ve established this a trip to the GP is the first point of contact. If you are in the first 6 weeks telling your healthcare visitor or midwife is ideal but any professional medical expert will know exactly how to help.”
Spender added good nutrition, fresh air, going for walks and feel-good music can help pregnant women’s well being.
Research in 2015 found that British Pakistani and Indian women have a higher rate of postnatal depression then their white counterparts. The study in Manchester and Lancashire found that culturally adapted interventions using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – change patterns of thinking or behaviour – may help.
One of the women interviewed told researchers: “I wanted to come out of depression and wanted to meet new people because to me loneliness was the main reason of my depression.
“And to me, if there are other women who are lonely, they should meet up and join [social] groups. Because of these you get to know about other people and their situations.”
Josie Anderson, from charity Bliss which supports families looking after sick or premature babies, said: “These [latest] results are truly shocking and Bliss’ research has found that the mental health issues many new mums face are deeply exacerbated by having a baby admitted to a neonatal unit, as one in seven babies in the UK are.
“Some 23 per cent of parents we surveyed, for instance, developed anxiety while 16 per cent suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, as a result of their neonatal experience”.
For confidential mental health support, ring Mind on 0300 123 3393 or the Samaritans on 116 123.