Promoting maternal mental health has benefits across several sectors
Maternal, reproductive and infant health
- Promotes optimal access to health and social services by vulnerable groups of women and girls, which improves functioning, capabilities and quality of life
- Promotes positive obstetric outcomes
- Promotes successful and longer breastfeeding, which in turn prevents diarrhoea episodes and improves mother-infant bonding
- Promotes completion of infant immunisations
- Reduces rates of infectious illness and hospital admissions
- Increases resilience, agency, and care-giving capacity of mothers living in poverty
Early childhood development
- Mental ill-health can compromise parental functioning and care-giving capacity which is central to child development. The ‘1000-day’ window from conception to two-years is a particularly sensitive period in child development and maternal mental health interventions are protective, preventative and promotive of optimal infant, child and maternal health outcomes.
- Mental wellness in the primary caregiver is associated with better development in children, as well as better nutrition. Under-nutrition is the single most deleterious determinant of poor child development – a factor also strongly linked to children’s diminished mental health.
- A mother with positive self-esteem and an ability to work towards a better future will better be able to negotiate the hardships in her life, care for herself and optimally nurture the development of her children.
- Prevents default and improves adherence to ARV (and TB) treatment regimens
- Immune status improves when depression and anxiety is managed
- Promotes optimal PMTCT outcomes
Addressing gender-based violence
When women are listened to and validated in a safe and therapeutic environment they begin to restore their self-esteem and locus of control. Women may be empowered to identify what actions they can realistically take to change their circumstances.
- Provides the necessary support to empower women to identify resources and personal capabilities; this enhances resilience to difficult life circumstances and supports them to nurture their children optimally
- Improves outcomes related to MDG 4: reduce under-five mortality, MDG 5: improve maternal health and MDG 6: combat major diseases such as HIV/AIDS and TB.
- Reduces general health care costs through early detection and referral of mental health problems
- Increases rate of return of investment in human development and requires less investment for interventions timed at later stages
Public Health Sector
- Prevents nurse abuse of clients in maternity settings and promotes empathic care in supportive maternity environments
Addresses upstream causes of ill-health and burden of disease
- Contributes to achieving Department of Health objectives as outlined in the Mental Health Care Act (2002), the Primary Health Care Re-engineering Plan, the Comprehensive Service Plan for the Implementation of Healthcare 2020 and the Negotiated Service Delivery Agreement
- Addresses the gap in maternal mental health knowledge
- Reduces general health care costs through early detection, prevention or referral of mental health problems
- Addresses major stressors on the public health system, such as
- health worker burnout
- human rights abuses in public obstetric facilities
- Builds capacity within the public sector to address maternal mental illness which
- combats stigma, shifts attitudes and increases morale
- empowers health workers to identify and manage maternal mental health problems and improves their ability to handle personal crises
- maximises scarce resources
- These factors simultaneously contribute to improved quality of service delivery.