Dr Raja Gangopadhyay is a world renowned obstetrician and pioneer championing progress and change in Perinatal Mental Health. He is also the Founder of the International Forum for Wellbeing in Pregnancy.
In this blog he shares what motivates his work and what women should do to improve their self-care.
Q: What made you develop a special interest in maternal mental health?
A. During very early days of my training in Obstetrics, I encountered a mother who developed Postpartum psychosis the day following her childbirth. The turning point of my life came, when the husband of the woman asked him the following day, “Could you please tell me if something could have been done during the pregnancy to prevent this serious condition of my wife?”
I studied extensively the different maternal mental health conditions and realised that so many things can be done during pregnancy to minimise the risk of developing mental illnesses following childbirth.
Moreover, I was amazed to find out how stress and mental health conditions during pregnancy could adversely affect the pregnancy outcomes, marital relations, and partner’s mental health.
During my entire career, I witnessed with my own eyes the real impact of such conditions on the life of the mothers and families.
Suicide due to mental health conditions is one of the leading DIRECT causes of Maternal death all across the world. An early and timely intervention can save a human life, could prevent and mitigate the risk of serious mental health problems and reduce the endless suffering of a mother (and her family).
In of so much advancement in the field of science, technology, and understanding of mental health conditions, very sadly the myths, stigma, and shame still persist in our society related to this health condition. Many mothers suffer in silence.
This is one of the reasons, I have set up International Forum for Wellbeing In Pregnancy (IFWIP) to bring together everyone to join the conversation and raise awareness.
Q. With regards to maternal mental health, why is it important for women to look after themselves during pregnancy?
A. Self-care is fundamental to the prevention of and the early recovery from any health condition and mental health conditions during pregnancy are no exception.
Pregnancy is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on and adopt healthy lifestyle changes and discuss them with the care providers during antenatal and post-natal visits.
It is important to remember that self-care is not only important for the mother, but also for the partner (and rest of the family members) too as we know that partners can also develop mental health problems during the perinatal period.
You can visit IFWIP Resource page for more information: https://www.ifwip.org/resources/
Q. What three essential tips would you give to pregnant women to look after themselves to protect their mental health?
A. We must remember that every mother is different, therefore, the individual needs vary.
Contrary to previous belief, pregnancy is not a protective factor for mental health conditions. No mother is immune regardless of her educational/ social/ ethnic background. She can develop mental health condition during the perinatal period, even if she did not suffer from this prior to her pregnancy.
Therefore, mental wellbeing is vital in every single pregnant mother (and the partner).
I would suggest the following:
- Self-care: Healthy diet, rest, relaxation, and exercise.
- Seek help early:speak to someone you trust and discuss with healthcare professionals at the earliest opportunity. Also, it is important to remember that it’s never too late to seek help. A full recovery is possible from perinatal mental health conditions.
- Please do NOT ignore ‘Red Flag’ symptoms: please contact Mental Health Crisis team at nearest A&E or NHS helpline without any further delay.
For Red Flag symptoms please refer to page 3 of
Q. What is the aim of the IFWIP?
The primary objective of the IFWIP is to create a free, comprehensive, evidence-based open-access resource on all different aspects of wellbeing during pregnancy and perinatal period. The purpose is to create a society where every mother (and family) is aware of the importance of emotional health and wellbeing during the perinatal period and talk about their experiences without any fear of stigma and shame.
I am so pleased to see that IFWIP initiative has been well-received throughout the world to ensure this to be the biggest conversation on wellbeing during pregnancy and perinatal period in global perspective.
For further information and to get involved, please visit: www.ifwip.org