One-in-ten women can experience significant depression and anxiety during pregnancy and the first year of their baby’s life.
Sidra Medicine is hosting the World Maternal Mental Health Day Conference on 11 May in an effort to discuss the Covid-19 impact on perinatal mental health.
The hybrid event is hosted in collaboration with Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Experts from the health entities are going to discuss the importance of maternal mental wellbeing under the theme “Stronger Together’; Supporting Women Worldwide on our Journey through Maternal Mental Health Care.”
The discussions, which parents can attend by registering online, would pave the way to start conversations on perinatal mental health, which many women often find difficulty opening up about.
“Pregnancy, the birth of a baby, and the first year of life are exciting for a woman and her family; but for some women, this can be a time of mixed emotions,” said Dr. Zainab Imam, Perinatal Psychiatrist at Sidra Medicine.
Dr Imam said that more discussions around mental health would make it easier women and their families to find and seek help. She noted that the conference is held in “an open and culturally sensitive” manner.
The conference was inspired by the challenges that mothers face following the Covid-19 outbreak. The pandemic created a rising demand for services to help mothers during such difficult times.
Some of the factor’s that impacted women’s maternal mental health included stress and anxiety that came with changes in labour as a result of the pandemic. Another included the expectant mothers’ increased anxiety due to concerns over the health of their babies.
“The pandemic has also led to the establishment of new services that make it easier for individuals to seek professional help. This conference will help address societal taboos whilst showing our joint commitment to supporting new and expectant mothers,” said Dr Sazgar Hamad, clinical lead for the Virtual Women’s and Perinatal Service at HMC.
Throughout the conference, experts are going to look into the need for training, provision of gender sensitive services, and public mental health.
Sidra Medicine has a perinatal mental health services department, given the commonality of mental health difficulties amongst mothers.
“One-in-ten women experience significant depression and/ or anxiety during pregnancy and/or the first year of their baby’s life,” said the health institution.
According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), perinatal mental health (PMH) problems occur during the pregnancy or the year after birth. The NHS said that perinatal mental illnesses affect 20% of new and expectant mothers.
Some of the symptoms include depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Other mental disorders that mothers can suffer from include postpartum psychosis and postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD).
A 2020 study published in Frontiers in Global Women’s Health found an increase in self reported depression during the pandemic when compared to pre-pandemic figures amongst pregnant women and women within the first year postpartum.
Before the pandemic, 29% of new mothers experienced symptoms of anxiety, and 15% reported feelings of depression.
The numbers almost tripled after the pandemic, with 72% of new mothers reporting symptoms of anxiety and 41% experiencing symptoms of depression.
Research by Sidra Medicine in collaboration with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that perinatal mental mental health disorders are more prevalent amongst women living in Qatar than in most western countries.
“Although interventions exist to prevent postpartum depression and anxiety, to date there have been no studies that have attempted to prevent postpartum depression or anxiety among Arabic speaking women in the Middle East, including Qatar,” researchers said.
Sidra Medicine and Northwestern University are still conducting a study on local maternal mental health. It is expected to be completed by October this year.