Litany of undiagnosed, under-reported and untreated health problems for mothers
A Health Research Board funded study by researchers in Trinity College Dublin’s School of Nursing and Midwifery has revealed a wide range of hidden health problems facing mothers, affecting their mental, physical and sexual health. The MAMMI (Maternal Health and Maternal Morbidity in Ireland study) is a multi-strand, multi-center cohort study investigating prevalence and risk factors for a range of morbidities in 2,600 nulliparous women; the study group represents almost 10% of all first-time mothers giving birth in Ireland in a given year. The MAMMI study is now one of the largest prospective maternal health studies globally.
The interim findings of the study reveal that for a wide range of conditions prevalence rates are high to very high while the rates of diagnosis and reporting by healthcare professionals of these conditions are extremely low. Speaking about the significance of these findings, Professor Cecily Begley, principal investigator of MAMMI and Chair of Nursing and Midwifery in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity said:
Our research to date indicates that at policy, research, practice and public discourse level, many serious aspects of women’s health during and after pregnancy remain almost completely hidden. Most of these conditions are preventable or treatable yet women are not being asked about them during the first three months postpartum, a time at which they are in regular contact with healthcare professionals.”
In relation to mental health MAMMI research aims to identify the existence, extent, prevalence and associated risk factors for mental distress in 2,600 first time mothers before, during, and in the 12 months after pregnancy:
- 28% of women reported they had experienced anxiety 3 months after having their baby.
- Half the women were not asked about anxiety by their GP and one in three were not asked about it by their public health nurse in the first three months postpartum.
- 17% of women reported depression in the first three months postpartum.
- Half the women were not asked about depression by their GP and one in three were not asked about it by their public health nurse in the first three months postpartum.
- The research also outlines that if women are only asked about depression, women who experience the distress of anxiety may be overlooked.