Perinatal Mental Health & Early Development

ESRC Impact Accelerator Account – Perinatal Mental Health

In this ESRC-funded project we are collaborating with partners in health, social work, education and the voluntary sector to identify how we can use our understanding of perinatal mental health and early infant development to inform policy and society.

Pregnant women with serious mental health problems such as psychosis, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorders are one of Scotland’s most vulnerable groups. Their children are at increased risk of developing mental health problems themselves, but also more preschool emotional and behavioural problems and difficulties with social adjustments. This risk is largely understood as a biological risk and support systems — during pregnancy, following the birth of a child and in the early years of the infants — are centred around the presence or absence of medical symptoms and related needs. Our research has shown that the mechanisms of risk and vulnerability rather lie in the mother infant relationship and their societal context.

To address these issues, we are developing a policy framework around vulnerable infants and their parents that directly addresses underlying relational problems. Our methodology is also ensuring that policy and the wider system are informed by the research and broader systems of support.