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Perinatal mental health: a review of progress and challenges

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-327
Number of pages15
JournalWorld Psychiatry
Issue number3
Published1 Oct 2020

King's Authors


Perinatal mental health has become a significant focus of interest in recent years, with investment in new specialist mental health services in some high-income countries, and inpatient psychiatric mother and baby units in diverse settings. In this paper, we summarize and critically examine the epidemiology and impact of perinatal mental disorders, including emerging evidence of an increase of their prevalence in young pregnant women. Perinatal mental disorders are among the commonest morbidities of pregnancy, and make an important contribution to maternal mortality, as well as to adverse neonatal, infant and child outcomes. We then review the current evidence base on interventions, including individual level and public health ones, as well as service delivery models. Randomized controlled trials provide evidence on the effectiveness of psychological and psychosocial interventions at the individual level, though it is not yet clear which women with perinatal mental disorders also need additional support for parenting. The evidence base on psychotropic use in pregnancy is almost exclusively observational. There is little research on the full range of perinatal mental disorders, on how to improve access to treatment for women with psychosocial difficulties, and on the effectiveness of different service delivery models. We conclude with research and clinical implications, which, we argue, highlight the need for an extension of generic psychiatric services to include preconception care, and further investment into public health interventions, in addition to perinatal mental health services, potentially for women and men, to reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality.

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