MEDICALLY REVIEWED

Singapore Launches First Perinatal Mental Health Guidelines to Address Rising Maternal Depression during COVID-19

Indonesian mother and daughter sleeping in bed happily Perinatal

Maternal depression has been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Singapore is taking steps to address this issue.

KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) has responded to the increase in cases of post-natal depression during the Covid-19 pandemic by creating clinical guidelines that emphasise the significance of screening. The guidelines aim to quickly identify and treat mental health conditions in pregnant women and mothers who have recently given birth. Consequently, promoting better perinatal mental health. The first set of guidelines on perinatal mental health was launched recently at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Maternal and Child Health Research Institute (MCHRI) Asia Pacific Maternal and Child Health Conference and Integrated Platform For Research In Advancing Maternal & Child Health Outcomes (IPRAMHO) International Meeting 2023 in KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH).

Need to address perinatal mental health after COVID-19

Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Communications and Information, unveiled the guidelines, emphasising the need to address the rising incidence of maternal depression. The guidelines highlight a 47% increase in patients who screened positive for postnatal depression in KKH between April 2019 to March 2020 and April 2021 to March 2022. The increase during the COVID-19 pandemic is a major concern as it impacts not only the mother but also the child. Associate Professor Helen Chen, Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Psychological Medicine, KKH, and Chairperson, Workgroup for the Guidelines, states that “anxiety and depression in the mother can lead to adverse consequences.”

Recommendations

The Guidelines for Perinatal Mental Health include several key recommendations. Firstly, they include increasing awareness and availability of advice on preconception mental health, optimising care, treatment, and support for women with antenatal and postnatal depression. In addition, it also hopes to increase accessibility to mental health support for women who have experienced severe medical trauma, and tailoring mental healthcare needs for adolescents and women with special needs. Finally, the guidelines also promote higher caregiver quality for perinatal and infant mental health needs.

The Singapore Perinatal Mental Health Guidelines are created as part of a series of guidelines designed by IPRAMHO. IPRAMHO is a main programme by MCHRI, to transform national health in Singapore. The guidelines will be available to healthcare professionals through the College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists Singapore.

According to Associate Professor Helen Chen, “We hope that these guidelines will contribute to a more comprehensive and accessible perinatal mental healthcare system, promoting mental well-being in mothers, their children, and families in Singapore.”

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