Public views of acceptability of perinatal mental health screening and treatment preference: a population based survey
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BACKGROUND: At a prevalence rate of 13-25%, mental health problems are among the most common morbidities of the prenatal and postnatal periods. They have been associated with increased risk of preterm birth and low birthweight, child developmental delay, and poor child mental health. However, very few pregnant and postpartum women proactively seek help or engage in treatment and less than 15% receive needed mental healthcare. While system-related barriers limit accessibility and availability of mental health services, personal barriers, such as views of mental health and its treatment, are also cited as significant deterrents of obtaining mental healthcare. The purposes of this population-based study were to identify the public's views regarding mental health screening and treatment in pregnant and postpartum women, and to determine factors associated with those views. METHODS: A computer-assisted telephone survey was conducted by the Population Research Laboratory with a random sample of adults in Alberta, Canada. Questions were drawn from the Perinatal Depression Monitor, an Australian population-based survey on perinatal mental health; additional questions were developed and tested to reflect the Canadian context. Interviews were conducted in English and were less than 30 minutes in duration. Descriptive and multivariable regression analyses were conducted. RESULTS: Among the 1207 respondents, 74.8% had post-secondary education, 16.3% were 18-34 years old, and two-thirds (66.1%) did not have children <18 years living at home. The majority of respondents strongly agreed/agreed that all women should be screened in the prenatal (63.0%) and postpartum periods (72.7%). Respondents reported that when seeking help and support their first choice would be a family doctor. Preferred treatments were talking to a doctor or midwife and counseling. Knowledge of perinatal mental health was the main factor associated with different treatment preferences. CONCLUSIONS: The high acceptability of universal perinatal mental health screening among the public provides a strong message regarding the public value for routine screening during pregnancy and postpartum periods. Perinatal mental health literacy is the most prominent determinant of screening and treatment acceptability and preference. Efforts to enhance population literacy as part of a multifaceted perinatal mental health strategy may optimize pregnant and postpartum women's mental health.
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