Perinatal Psychiatry: Promoting Mental Health of Women through Training


Cardiff University, MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Cardiff, United Kingdom


In this session, I will talk about perinatal psychiatry, and how through good training of psychiatrists we can promote the health and improve the lives of many women and their families. Perinatal psychiatry refers to the mental health care provided to women during pregnancy and the year after childbirth. I will cover the main mental illnesses that affect women in this period, from depression and anxiety, to the most severe cases of postpartum psychosis. The perinatal period is a high-risk period of recurrence for many women with a psychiatric illness. Perinatal illness episodes have a big impact on women, their partners and extended family. Suicide is a leading cause of maternal death. Bonding with the baby and child development may be affected. Relationships can suffer. And there are significant associated costs for the society. In the UK, they are estimated £8.1 billion for each one-year cohort of births, mainly related to impacts on the child. Psychiatrists are amongst the key professionals who deal with women during this period and can make a positive impact. The aim of postgraduate psychiatric training is to prepare psychiatrists to practice independently and the quality of care provided will depend on the training they received. However, perinatal psychiatry is not always adequately covered during psychiatric training. The European Federation of Psychiatric Trainees conducts an annual survey of all member country organisations. Out of the 35 countries that responded to the 2016 survey, six reported that training in perinatal mental health is available. But it is mandatory in only one, with the others offering a mix of theoretical and practical optional training. Of the 29 countries that do not offer perinatal psychiatry training, the majority reported it should be offered and mandatory. I will present international initiatives to promote the mental health of women through perinatal psychiatry training.