Idea for Action Summary
Caregiver mental health indicators are key to how the Bernard van Leer Foundation measures the impact of its initiatives. Why?
While stress in pregnancy and caregiving is common, a parent’s severe anxiety, trauma or depression can negatively affect the development of young children significantly. For pregnant women, stress not only affects their ability to bond with their future child, it can also impact the neural development of the baby, both in the womb and following birth. Maternal anxiety and stress also have adverse effects on babies or toddlers’ attention spans, reactivity and cognitive development. This has long-lasting consequences on the child, with possible repercussions well into adulthood. Stigma, undertreatment, inadequate referral mechanisms and lack of treatment capacity are all challenges to supporting maternal mental health. Learn more about the link between maternal mental health and early childhood development here.
Governments can play a powerful role in helping ensure that every pregnant woman is screened for her mental health needs, both before and after childbirth. Women who need additional support should be able to access services at low, or no cost. Support may vary greatly, from universal interventions such as disseminating information on recognising stressors, to targeted interventions such as peer support groups which help establish and maintain positive relationships. In addition, action should be taken to reduce the social and cultural stigmas around mental health, which are present in many societies.