Mental health issues make premature birth more likely - study

Almost one-fifth of mothers in Belfast research report history of mental disorder

Compared with those who did not report a history of mental disorder these pregnancies were more likely to result in premature deliveries and babies born with low birth weight, the researchers found. Photograph: Getty Images/iStock

Compared with those who did not report a history of mental disorder these pregnancies were more likely to result in premature deliveries and babies born with low birth weight, the researchers found. Photograph: Getty Images/iStock

 

Pregnant women with a history of mental health problems are more likely to experience premature births or delivery of babies with low weight, a new Irish study has found.

Research conducted at Queen’s University Belfast examined the psychological health of mothers in 142,000 cases between 2010 and 2015.

Almost one-fifth reported a history of mental disorder, with conditions including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.

Compared with those who did not report a history of mental disorder these pregnancies were more likely to result in premature deliveries and babies born with low birth weight, the researchers found.

Measures of how healthy a baby is in the immediate period after birth were also found to be lower when their mothers had experienced health issues.

The research, which was conducted with maternal mental health clinicians and the Health and Social Care Trusts ‘Honest Broker Service’, which enables the safe sharing of non-identifiable data, is considered invaluable in the medical field.

Between 2009 and 2013 there were 3.7 deaths per 100,000 women in Northern Ireland from mental health-related causes during pregnancy, or up to one year after the end of pregnancy. Of these, 101 women died by suicide, representing one in seven of all maternal deaths during the period.

Perinatal depression, anxiety and psychosis are estimated to carry a long-term cost of about £8.1 billion (€9.3 billion) for each one-year cohort of births in the UK, data published by Queen’s university said.

“These findings highlight the urgent need for investment in the provision of specialist maternal mental-health care in Northern Ireland,” said Dr Janine Lynch, consultant psychiatrist and member of the research team.

“By addressing the urgent need for investment in the provision of specialist maternal mental-health care, lives and costs will be saved.”

Since 2010, women in Northern Ireland have been specifically asked whether they had a history of mental health problems as part of the Northern Ireland Maternity System pregnancy screening system carried out by midwives.