Peripartum mental health issues must be better recognized and addressed


UN Geneva - Answering to a call for input on a draft joint OHCHR/WHO Guidance note on mental health, human rights and legislation, MMM called for a specific focus on maternal mental health, highlighting the high prevalence of mental health concerns among pregnant women and new mothers, their crucial impact on early childhood development and the costs of inaction.

Pregnancy and the first year postpartum – referred to as the peripartum period – constitute a period of tremendous physiological, psychological, and social changes in women’s lives. It is now well established that the transition to motherhood is increasing women’s vulnerability to the development of mental disorders.

It is estimated that globally nearly 1 in 5 women will develop mental health problems during pregnancy or within the first year postpartum. The most prevalent peripartum mental health problems are depression and anxiety.

Unfortunately, many cases of postpartum mood disorders are undetected and therefore, untreated. This means that a large number of mothers suffer in silence, as the stigma and the lack of knowledge surrounding peripartum mental illnesses are significant barriers to accessing healthcare.

Peripartum illness not only adversely affects the mother and her overall health, but it also disrupts the mother-baby dyad and family relationships, which in turn affects the baby’s health and early development. We know that the earliest experiences shape a baby’s brain development, and have a lifelong impact on their mental and emotional health, as well as their physical, cognitive and social development. The neglect, stress or even violence that can result from a mother’s mental health problems can produce physiologic disruptions or biological memories that undermine a child’s development and their potential for productive participation in society later in life.

And this translates into a high financial cost on society as a whole: a 2014 study by the London School of Economics has shown that economic costs of peripartum mental illness for the UK society is about £8.1 billion for each one-year cohort of births, of which 72% relates to the child and 28% to the mother. The LSE report also suggests that the cost to the public sector of peripartum mental health problems is 5 times the cost of improving services.

It is therefore crucial that Peripartum mental health problems are better recognized and addressed. The Guidance Note provides an opportunity to put a spotlight on these issues so that more is done on prevention, detection and treatment.

Maternal mental health assessment should be included in planned antenatal and postnatal care visits and related costs considered as a high-return investment.

MMM’s full answer for download

The objective of the Guidance note to be jointly issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is to become a resource for countries when considering legislative measures in support of transforming mental health systems, in line with international human rights law. The call for input on the draft Guidance was open to all stakeholders.


Most read articles

In this together: Share the Care, Transform Tomorrow


UN New York, HLPF - Join us on July 11th for a discussion on how #SharingTheCare at every level - family, community, governments and private sector - is vital for

Lire plus

An almost Perfect Mother – New Podcast series with Isabelle Roskam


We are delighted to be launching our new podcast series An almost Perfect Mother featuring Isabelle Roskam, professor of development and parenting psychology at the University of Louvain, Belgium. Isa

Lire plus

Friendship NGO at the forefront of the fight against climate change


Our associate member in Bangladesh, Friendship NGO, responds to the call for input into an upcoming UN report on Human Rights and Climate Change.

Lire plus
See all the articlesof the category

Latest News from MMM and its Network

Children at the heart of World Conference on Early Childhood Care & Education


Following the September 2022 Transforming Education Summit (TES) held in New York, the UNESCO World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education (WCECCE) was launched on November 14th in Tashkent, Uzbekista

Read more

MMM Response to the EU Care Strategy


We need care when we are very young or very old, experiencing sickness or disability and the people who provide this care are indispensable actors in European economies and societies.

Read more

World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education: MMM promotes shared parenting


Organised by UNESCO, the World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education will be held from 14-16 November in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. We will be there and are organising a side event on the transformative p

Read more

Making the case for Gender Equal Parenting: Vital for Early Childhood Development and a transformative tomorrow


At MMM, we believe that sharing the invisible work of caring and educating children more equitably is a quadruple win: essential for early child development (ECD), beneficial for both men and women, as well as

Read more

In search of a cure for PCOS
The SPIOMET4Health project


MMM is participating in an EU project, SPIOMET4Health, which aims at providing a treatment for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a leading cause of infertility, while raising awareness about the prevalence of t

Read more

MMM calls for redefinition of ‘work’ to encompass both paid & unpaid work


UN Geneva, Human Rights Council - MMM took the opportunity of a panel discussion on the future of the right to work in the context of Climate Change, to call for a more holistic view of 'work', where both paid

Read more