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'Pharmacists are ill-equipped to handle maternal mental health issues'

Pharmacy teams can benefit from improving their understanding of maternal mental health issues, says superintendent pharmacist Marvin Munzu

Over half of pregnant women (53%) now experience anxiety while a quarter (23%) admit feeling depressed [according to a May 2019 survey by pregnancy support website Emma’s Diary of 3,000 respondents].

However, when it comes to supporting these women, maternal mental health is an area where many pharmacy professionals feel ill-equipped, with eight in 10 claiming they don’t have enough access to resources to help pregnant women or new mums [according to a May 2019 survey by Emma’s Diary with 17,000 respondents].

Over the past eight years I’ve observed a change in patient attitudes towards maternal mental health. Now the most common consultations I have with new mums are focused on postnatal depression or anxiety, with many looking for advice, supportive literature or guidance on who they can reach out to.

As a father of four, I feel my personal experiences of having children have helped to improve my knowledge, experience and understanding of some of the mental health challenges that pregnant women and new mums face. However, despite society trying to remove the stigma attached to mental health, not everyone is comfortable talking about this topic, which is where additional training modules can really benefit pharmacists in improving their understanding of tell-tale signs.

As pharmacists, we’re in direct contact with the general public on a daily basis and are usually the first port of call for most patients. We provide healthcare advice to expectant and new mums regularly, and conduct health campaigns throughout the year, putting us in a prime position to support patients and make a significant difference to the management of maternal mental health.

However, most pharmacists are limited by their knowledge on this topic, as they don’t get any form of training. This is why it’s so important that pharmacists have more access to information, training programmes and guides on maternal mental health. Not only will this increase our confidence and enhance the services and support we provide to expectant and new mums, it could increase collaboration with other healthcare providers such as GPs, nurses and midwives.

Marvin Munzu is superintendent pharmacist of Priory Fields Pharmacy in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

Read C+D's article on how to help mothers with birth trauma

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