Infant Mental Health Awareness Must Begin Before Birth

During this year’s Infant Mental Health Awareness Week (7-13 June), we should remember that a baby’s mental health begins before birth, with the mother’s; both in pregnancy and postnatally. She is the biggest influence on her baby, although partners can of course be very important too.

Our webinar “Begin Before Birth: Emotional Wellbeing During Pregnancy & Beyond” offers expert perinatal mental health advice for new and expectant parents as well as all those who care for them, or are interested in the topic.

Mental health problems in pregnancy and post-birth are very common. They affect at least one in five women. Lockdowns during the pandemic have only added to our isolation and anxiety. We seek to foster friendly, open discussion around the topic via this event. It will include plenty of time to put your questions to leading experts in the field.

We have run Begin Before Birth for 15 years, but this is the first time the conference is geared towards the public as well as professionals. The event has previously highlighted the effect of a mother’s mental health on her baby — and even on that child’s pregnancy in later life. This echoes the theme of this year’s Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, which is “Including Infants”.

The webinar will be introduced by the Chair of Genesis Research Trust, Professor Robert Winston. Lord Winston continues to advance fertility treatments. His new technique, ‘StarTransfer’, makes IVF cheaper and increases the chances of success.

The conference is chaired by Professor Vivette Glover and Dr Alain Gregoire.

Vivette Glover is a Professor of Perinatal Psychobiology at Imperial College London. Her presentation will touch on her recent research into how breastfeeding affects emotional and intellectual development.

Alain Gregoire is a familiar face from BBC2’s Trust Me, I’m a Doctor. He founded the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, connecting various British organisations that share this focus. He has lobbied the UK government to address perinatal mental health more seriously, resulting in investment of over £350million into the issue. This has proven to save state expenditure relating to mental health issues in children’s later life.

Perinatal Psychiatrist, Dr Trudi Seneviratne, will discuss the range of perinatal mental health problems and how to access the right help. While many people are aware of postnatal depression, they may not realise antenatal depression is just as common, or that anxiety is as common as depression, or that antidepressants can help the baby too.

Dr Susan Pawlby, researcher at King’s College London, will talk about how to recognise that your baby might be in emotional distress. She will reveal the potential for engaging with babies is broader than many myths would have you believe. Did you know that newborns can recognise their mother’s face from the first day?

To end the conference, Dr Jill Domoney, also from King’s College, will discuss the role of fathers. Dr Domoney, and colleagues, Zoe Darwin, Jane Iles, Florence Bristow and Vaheshta Sethna, have recently published the NHS good practice guide for partners and family members supporting women with perinatal mental health issues. Her talk will touch on its key points. Like the event, the guidance is aimed at those caring for new mothers in both a professional and personal capacity.

Everyone is very welcome to join!

Begin Before Birth: Emotional Wellbeing During Pregnancy & Beyond

15th June 2021, 13:45-17:00, online.

Registration is just £15 and £5 for attendees from lower- to middle-income countries. Proceeds support our reproductive science research.

For more information and registration, please click here.