’Infant mental health begins in the womb’ was one of the key messages from the Association for Infant Mental Health’s bi-annual conference, held at the University of Northampton on 16 September and sponsored by the 1001 Critical Days collaborative, founded by local MP Andrea Leadsom.
Around one million children in the UK suffer from problems (including ADHD, conduct disorder, emotional problems and vulnerabilities to chronic illness) that are now recognised to be increased as a result of antenatal depression, anxiety and stress.
Politicians and academics speaking at the conference, included Andrea Leadsom and Sir Al Aynsley Green, the former first children’s commissioner for England. Talks centred on why more needs to be done to support parents experiencing mental health problems in pregnancy and highlighted the need for a universal and comprehensive approach to supporting the development of the infant’s earliest relationships before birth, in order to improve the later social and emotional wellbeing of children.
Professor Vivette Glover, one of the keynote speakers commented: “The time in the womb, and the first two years of life shape the way the brain of the child develops.”
Professor Susan Ayers, also a keynote speaker, said: “To ensure the best start in life and good physical and mental health of future generations we need to support women better during pregnancy and birth.”
The conference explored a range of topics including the number of parents who experience anxiety and depression in pregnancy and the effect on the unborn baby, the impact of maternal trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder during pregnancy, and the role of the maternal relationship with the foetus in terms of later parenting behaviours, in addition to exploring innovative ways of working to support parents-to-be.
Find out more about the 1001 Critical Days campaign.