Pregnant women recognize baby expressions differently depending on mental health history

Science Daily | October 2018 | Pregnant women recognize baby expressions differently depending on mental health history

A small-scale pilot study has found that expectant mums who have a history of depression or bipolar disorder interpret babies’ facial expressions and how they laugh or cry, in a different way to mums who have not experienced depression or bipolar disorder (control group). The research team found this to be the case even if the pregnant women are not currently experiencing mania or depression and could potentially identify an early-risk factor for the children (Source: Science Daily).


This was a pilot study comparing 22 pregnant women, with a history of depression, and 7 with bipolar disorder also currently well,  with 28  pregnant women with no history of mania or depression. In addition, 18 non-pregnant women were also tested as controls.

The findings of the study have been presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology’s (ECNP) Congress in Barcelona.

Full story at Science Daily 


Perinatal mental health

The Foundation for Mother & Child Health (FMCH), estimates the incidence of a mental health illness in mothers and fathers during pregnancy and after the birth of a child to be more than 1 in 10 women and more than 1 in 20 men around the world.

The causes of mental ill health during this time are reported to be due to a number of factors including Adverse Childhood Experiences, Trauma, Domestic Violence, Poverty and a prior episode of mental illness.  Research shows a mental illness present in either parent during the perinatal period adversely affects the physical and cognitive development of children in the family.

FMCH UK has, in collaboration with ForMed fIlms produced this short 6 minute animation explaining how parents may feel, the help they can access in the UK, and some self help strategies:


Children and young people’s mental health: focus group research

Department of Health and Social Care| August 2018 | Children and young people’s mental health: focus group research

The Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) funded  research into children and young people’s mental health.  DHSC funded  3 organisations: Youth Access, Young Minds and the National Children’s Bureau  to research the views of young people, parents and carers, and professionals about the proposals in the green paper.

This research was conducted as part of a 13 week consultation between December 2017 to March 2018, it received over 2,700 responses (Source: DHSC) .

The documents are available here:

Young Minds: student insights report on green paper proposals

Youth Access: consultations with young people on the green paper

National Children’s Bureau: Transforming mental health provision for children and young people


Maternal mental health checks

Review of the National Childbirth Trust Hidden Half report and GP consultation | Centre for Mental Health


Maternal mental health difficulties cause untold distress and suffering to women and their families, and cost the UK £8.1 billion each year. This report, commissioned by the NCT as part of their Hidden Half campaign, explores the implications of extending the current six-week health check for babies to include a consultation about the wellbeing of the mother.

We found that resourcing GPs to offer a ten-minute appointment about the mother’s health would cost around £27 million a year. But this could help to identify more women who are experiencing mental health difficulties after the birth of their child, and ensure that they receive timely, effective support.

The report concludes that an additional health check with GPs would provide an important opportunity to help women whose difficulties were missed during pregnancy. To make the most of their opportunity, GPs would also need training and advice on how to enquire about a new mother’s mental health.

Full report: Review of the National Childbirth Trust Hidden Half report and GP consultation

NHS England pledges specialist mental health services for new mums in every part of the country

NHS England & NHS Improvement | The Perinatal Mental Health Care Pathways | May 2018

NHS England has confirmed that new and expectant mums will be able to access specialist perinatal mental health community services in every part of the country by April 2019. The second wave of community-perinatal is now being rolled out to areas of the country that are currently underserved; with full geographical coverage  anticipated.

This £23 million  funding forms part of a package of measures, altogether worth a total of £365m by 2021, to transform specialist perinatal services so that 30,000 additional women can access evidence based treatment that is closer to home and when they need it, through specialist community services and inpatient mother and baby units (NHS England).

The perinatal
Image source:


NHS England & NHS Improvement have published guidance to provide services with evidence on what works in perinatal mental health care, as well as case studies describing how areas are starting to make this a reality.

The full release can be read at NHS England 

The full guidance can be downloaded here

In the media:

BBC News Improved mental health care funding for new mums

The Guardian NHS to make perinatal mental health available across England

Women in a quarter of the UK still can’t access vital maternal mental health services

New maps launched today by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance show that pregnant women and new mothers in a quarter of the UK still cannot access lifesaving specialist perinatal mental health services.

background-2410669_1920According to new data, pregnant women and new mothers in 24% of the UK still have no access to specialist perinatal mental health services. In its press release, the Maternal Health Alliance makes the point that in the most serious cases, perinatal mental illness can be life threatening: suicide is a leading cause of death for women during pregnancy and one year after giving birth.

With more than 1 in 10 women developing a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year after having a baby, it is important women with the most severe perinatal illnesses have access to vital specialist services wherever they live. If left untreated these illnesses can have a devastating impact on women and their families.

Full press release: Women in a quarter of the UK still can’t access vital maternal mental health services

Full detail: UK Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Community Teams (2017 data)

Related: Women across UK denied mental healthcare around childbirth, say doctors | The Guardian