Perinatal Mental Health Problems –What Midwives and Nurses can do?


  • Susamma Thomas
  • Reeja Annie Zachariah
  • Nisha Mathew Mathew



Midwives, Perinatal Mental Health, Screening, Counseling.


Maternal mental health is largely neglected in low and middle income countries. There is no routine screening
or treatment of maternal mental disorders in primary care settings in most parts of our country. Women
of every culture, age, income level and race can develop perinatal mood or anxiety disorder. Symptoms
can appear any time during pregnancy and the first 12 months after childbirth. According to the World
Health Organization, worldwide about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have given birth
experience a mental disorder, primarily depression.
Risk factors involved in causing maternal mental health issues include previous history or family history
of mental health problems, poverty, extreme stress, childhood abuse and neglect, violence, interpersonal
conflict, inadequate support from family, alcohol or drug abuse, and unplanned or unwanted pregnancy,
natural disasters, and negative experiences from previous pregnancies. With severe depression, the mothers
fail to adequately eat, sleep, bathe or adequately care for herself or the baby. The risk of suicide or harming
the baby is also possible. Prolonged or severe mental illness affects family life, hampers mother infant
bonding, breastfeeding and infant care.
Specialized midwives can be effectively involved in promoting healthy pregnancies, in primary and
secondary prevention, early identification, and timely provision of quality specialist care to the affected
women. However, identification and management of mental disorders by non- specialized health providers
is strongly recommended by the World Health Organization.

Author Biographies

Susamma Thomas

Graduate Certificate in Education (UCD, Dublin, Ireland)

Reeja Annie Zachariah

Assistant Professor College of Nursing Guru
Education Trust Thiruvalla

Nisha Mathew Mathew

Associate Professor, Theophilus College of Nursing, Kangazha