Perinatal Mental Health
Priority AxisTechnological and Social Innovation
Lead partnerThe Health and Europe Centre
Project budget8 537 957 €
ERDF amount5 122 774 €
Across the 2seas area 10-20% of women suffer from Perinatal Mental Illnesses (PMI): mental illness following birth & up to a year after: around 90% of them will not receive the support they need. 1 very common PMI is postnatal depression which has a cost of approx €74K to society related to the impact on both mother & child. The first 3 years of a child’s life are critical for attachment to parents, which lays the foundations for social & emotional development. Without this a child has decreased life chances & does not reach its full academic attainment potential. Currently severe PMI is treated well but the majority is mild to moderate & transitory in nature with no comprehensive, mainstream provision to prepare/support parents. Mums suffer from the fear of their baby being taken away so are reluctant to seek support. PATH addresses the challenge of preventing/supporting PMI providing a modern inclusive health infrastructure to improve perinatal experience & attachment in new families.
PATH will enable women, families & healthcare professionals to prevent, diagnose & successfully manage mild/moderate PMI via radical systemic change, developing an inclusive, holistic health structure: demand driven & co-created with existing patients & expectant/new parents. PATH will prepare parents pre-birth for their new role & help them avoid PMI; currently feelings of being a failure as a parent lead to a reticence in seeking help: 58% of pregnant women/new mothers fear they would be judged. PATH’s multiple entry points including anonymous online services will allow women to access support in a way that best suits them. PATH will also improve the skills of healthcare professionals equipping them to address PMI confidently & effectively. At present 70% in Lille feel they do not have enough knowledge to recognise PMI & 65% of UK midwives do not feel confident in providing satisfactory emotional support during the postnatal period – PATH will address both these issues.
PATH will create:
- a new multi-media international support hub, including gaming/avatars, to help families develop parental awareness & recognise, prevent & overcome PMI. This will benefit all parents in the partner areas, addressing the stereotype of everybody possessing natural parenting skills.
- scientifically evaluated modular prepared parenting & PMI training (building on existing best practice) to increase knowledge & upskill healthcare professionals/employers/parents.
- a multi-media campaign to raise awareness of & destigmatise PMI. This can be suffered by either parent, so raising awareness will also help fathers, recognising & treating symptoms among them early
- community support groups for new families, increasing self-resilience via the wider community & social networks.
PATH will create a new norm of preparing parents & recognising PMI & by providing community care & digital tools in monitoring PMI, send out an early warning message to people & a pathway to help.
Cross border approach
Rates of PMI in all 4 2Seas countries are similar & have remained static for years whilst rates across other parts of Europe are significantly lower. Despite NL providing maternity care (Kraamzorg) for an average of 49 hours after childbirth, rates of PMI are as high as the UK, BE & FR. It is clear that individual countries have not managed to address the issue successfully & a wider approach is needed, learning from initiatives that have taken place & improving on these to provide a better solution. Partners will combine their existing diverse experience & knowledge to address this problem. Within each of the 4 partner countries there is niche expertise, however unless this is combined the PATH results cannot be achieved. Intense cross-border cooperation, taking into account the stature & influence of partner organisations, with co-development & cocreation will provide the critical mass & synergy that is vital for this new inclusive health approach to overcome the problem.
PATH is tackling perinatal mental health issues: the stigma surrounding them, the lack of knowledge about them and the lack of resources available to both parents and professionals. 2020 created extra challenges for pregnant women and new parents that no one could ever have imagined. The perinatal mental health struggles facing new mums and dads were exasperated by lockdowns, restricted conditions in hospitals and lack of access to support from family and friends. The PATH partners reacted quickly at the start of the pandemic to create COVID support pages in all four countries for expectant and new parents, as well as providing information for professionals. Communication attention was also turned to creating short clips to destigmatise perinatal mental health issues, particularly during this challenging time, and signpost to the resources provided on the path-perinatal.eu page. The French World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health also joined the project as a new partner, providing invaluable knowledge to support the mental health of PATH's target groups at this time.
Although the decision was taken to delay the original PATH multimedia campaign in light of COVID-19, work on this campaign has continued and has been adapted to ensure that it will provide important information on destigmatisation, increased awareness and prepared parenting. The campaign has been rescheduled for May 2021 in order to coincide with Maternal Health Month for maximum impact. Excellent work has also continued on the online support hub, providing resources for families, as well as healthcare professionals and employers.Face to face work has undoubtedly been challenged and much of the support that is provided to parents during the perinatal period cannot simply be replicated virtually, however partners have worked hard to continue to develop face to face training for healthcare professionals via virtual sessions, as well as exploring new ways of supporting parents in their prepared parenting journeys and creating intergenerational peer support networks. Leading by example, as the project's prepared parenting expert, the Masstaad Hospital in Rotterdam has acquired a new location called "the PATH Huis" that will be able to host new parents on their journey from conception to birth and beyond. PATH was also recognised as one of the top 10 most influential Twitter actors in Maternal Mental Health Week 2020.