The human and economic cost of not treating perinatal mental health problems effectively is significant.
Untreated perinatal mental health problems have a wide range of effects on the mental and physical health of women, their babies, partners and loved ones, meaning insufficient support is a major public health concern.
Perinatal mental health problems are also one of the leading causes of death for women during pregnancy and the year after birth.
The costs of undiagnosed or untreated perinatal mental health problems include:
1. Avoidable suffering
Perinatal mental health problems can cause intense, debilitating, isolating and often frightening suffering for women.
2. Damage to families
Perinatal mental health problems can have a long-term impact on a woman’s self-esteem and relationships with partners and family members.
3. Impact on children
Perinatal mental health problems can have an adverse impact on the interaction between a mother and her baby, affecting the child’s emotional, social and cognitive development.
4. Death or serious injury
In severe cases, perinatal mental health problems can be life-threatening. In the UK, suicide is one of the leading causes of maternal death in the first postnatal year.
5. Economic costs
Research commissioned by the MMHA shows that the economic cost to society of untreated perinatal mental health problems far outweighs the cost of providing appropriate services:
- ‘The Costs of Perinatal Mental Health Problems’ (LSE and Centre for Mental Health 2014)
- ‘The economic case for increasing access to treatment for women with common mental health problems during the perinatal period‘ (LSE 2022)