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Assessing mental health of pregnant women and lactating mothers

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The Center for People’s Empowerment and Rights Initiatives (CPRI) has said an estimated 40 percent of mental health cases go undetected at Out Patients Departments (OPDs).

The organization is therefore seeking to implement a screening tool to compliment the efforts of clinicians and mental health staff at the OPD units.

The tool would be targeted at pregnant women and lactating mothers to ensure their physical and mental wellbeing.

Project Coordinator, Dominic Wunigura

A Program Coordinator with CPRI, Dominic Wunigura expressed optimism that when the tool is administered and the necessary precautions are taken, pregnant women and lactating mothers would be able to take better care of themselves and their babies.

Mr. Wunigura mentioned that health professionals must pay extra attention to the mental wellbeing of pregnant women and lactating mothers because although some women might not have any mental disorders triggered by the stress of pregnancy, others might have mild to severe mental disorders.

He said “there is no maternal health without mental health. If we are looking at holistic healthcare, mental health must be included in basic healthcare.”

He said since some mental disorders do not have physical symptoms, health professionals needed some training to be able to probe and determine the basic mental health of a patient.

In line with this goal, 54 midwives, enrolled nurses and mental health officers from the Wa Municipality, Wa West and Wa East Districts have been trained on how to administer the ‘Perinatal Adapted Screening Tool’ (PAST) so far. A total of 190 midwives, enrolled nurses and mental health officers are expected to benefit from the training in all the Municipalities and Districts across the region.

The ‘Perinatal Adapted Screening Tool’ (PAST) was developed by a health consultant in the UK for CPRI as part of ‘the Enhancing Maternal Mental Health of 29,520 Pregnant Women, Mothers and Children to Realize a Holistic Maternal and Child Health in Ghana project.

‘PAST’ is a one paged document with 27 questions meant to gain preliminary information on the mental health status of pregnant women and lactating mothers. The tool has 7 main focus areas.

They include assessing anxiety, depression, psychosis and bipolar levels among patients.

The rest are epilepsy, disability and risk. ‘PAST’ is to be administered when pregnant women and lactating mothers visit health facilities for their prenatal and antenatal care.

The tool would collect data from the 4 weeks prior to the visit of the women. The answers to the 27 questions would then be graded on the basis of severity.

Based on the ratings, the women would then be referred to the appropriate quarters for redress.

Clinical Psychiatric Officer and Physician Assistant in Charge of Lawra Sub-District, George Bayuo

A Clinical Psychiatric Officer and Physician Assistant in charge of the Lawra Sub-district, George Bayuo who trained the participants on the use of the tools stressed that the tool is just to be used to gather information from the patients and then referred to mental health professional who are qualified to make diagnosis and then prescribe medications if there was a need.

The Acting Director for Clinical Care at the Upper West Regional Health Directorate, Daniel Appiagyei on behalf of the Director of Health Services, Dr. Osei Kuffuor Afreh said the GHS was committed to ensure the holistic wellbeing of pregnant women and lactating mothers and thus was in support of the ‘PAST.’

UWR, Acting Director for Clinical Care, Daniel Appiagyei

He said in due time, the service along with CPRI would restructure the tool in an effort to simplify it.

Story by Mark Smith

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