May 2, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

A team of researchers from Queen’s University has determined that there exists an “urgent need” for increased investment in specialist maternal mental health care in Northern Ireland. Here’s a closer look at the findings and why they matter,  as recently reported by BelfastLive.

Maternal Mental Health and Healthy Babies

Nearly one-fifth of the 142,000 women surveyed between 2010 and 2015 reported a history of mental health disorders. Unfortunately, a history of mental disorders during pregnancy is linked to the increased likelihood of premature deliveries, as well as adverse outcomes for babies, including low birth weights and low APGAR scores.

Between the years of 2009 and 2013, there were nearly 3.7 deaths for every 100,000 pregnancy in Northern Ireland due to mental health-related causes. More than 100 women died by suicide -- accounting for one-seventh of all maternal deaths over the same period of time.

In addition to the personal toll, there’s also a financial one: “Perinatal depression, anxiety and psychosis also carries a total long-term cost to society of about £8.1 billion for each one-year cohort of births in the UK,” says BelfastLive.

Addressing the Issue

Currently, no specialist perinatal mental health services are available in four-fifths of the region’s trusts, with only limited services available in Belfast. Meanwhile, there’s not a single specialist mother and baby unit on the entire island of Ireland.

Said research team member Dr. Janine Lynch, “These findings highlight the urgent need for investment in the provision of specialist maternal mental health care in Northern Ireland...By addressing the urgent need for investment in the provision of specialist maternal mental health care, lives and costs will be saved.”

Echoed Dr. Ciaran Mulholland, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry at Queen’s University, “Given the lack of large-scale research studies of this nature globally these results are extremely important for the development of perinatal health services everywhere...This is further evidence of how Queen’s University is a global leader in research and is committed to advancing knowledge and changing lives.”

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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