Pregnant women in Flanders and those having recently given birth are to be screened routinely for mental problems, in particular depression and anxiety, the region’s public health minister Jo Vandeurzen has announced. The decision follows the results of a series of pilot projects carried out by the university of Ghent and the Bethaniënhuis hospital in Zoersel in Antwerp province, which revealed that the various disciplines involved in the screening of mental health of pregnant and recently-delivered women, as well as treatment of problems, were not fully aware of each other’s work, leading to a fragmented approach to the issue.
The challenge facing a new system will be to bring together the different disciplines to create a transparent system able to deal with the range of mental health problems in the perinatal sector. Concretely, each pregnant woman in the region will be screened for alcohol and other drugs, and once they have given birth will be followed up to detect depression and anxiety complaints, by GPs, gynaecologists, midwives and family organisation Kind & Gezin, with referrals for treatment where indicated.
“It is essential to allow the different actors who play a role in mental health care in the perinatal sector to work together better, instead of competing against each other,” Vandeurzen said. “In order now to roll these projects out over all of Flanders, with the necessary intensive cooperation between the partners, we have set up the Flemish Expertise Network for Perinatal Mental Health Care, with the aim of strengthening the mental health care for pregnant and recently delivered women.”
The creation of the network will require a budget of 175,000 euros.