New research published in The Lancet Psychiatry has highlighted a link between poor mental health in pregnant women and worse outcomes for their babies.
Researchers analysed data from two million pregnant women and found that, for those who had accessed mental health services prior to pregnancy, one in 10 had a preterm birth – this was compared to one in 15 for those who had not accessed any such service.
The study discovered that women with psychiatric hospital admissions were at the highest risk of birth complications.
This came alongside those with history of mental health challenges also being at an increased risk of giving birth to a baby that was small for its gestational age – 65 per 1,000 births for women who had not used mental health services and 75 for every 1,000 births for those who had.
The researchers concluded that women should be asked sensitively, but in detail, about their pre-pregnancy mental health contact, so healthcare professionals can give them the best possible support and reduce any associated risk.
The research was a joint venture between the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, King’s College London, the University of Liverpool, and the University of Exeter. It was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research.
Professor of perinatal and clinical child psychology at the University of Liverpool, Helen Sharp, said: “These latest findings offer further insight into possible risks associated with mental health and pregnancy and importantly allow clinicians to offer advice and guidance to mitigate against them.”
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