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Getting it right: 1001 critical days

Professor Susan Ayers briefs the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on the '1001 critical days' manifesto.
by Ben

nullLast week Professor Susan Ayers (pictured), from City University London's Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research, briefed the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on '1001 critical days', a cross party political plan for improving the lives of children from conception to two years.

Professor Ayers and Dr Kirstie McKenzie-McHarg, a consultant clinical psychologist from Warwick Hospital, shared their research on women's perinatal (conception to the first 18 months of life) mental health and the impact on the mother-baby relationship.

Explaining the importance of the 1001 Days manifesto Professor Ayers commented: "The first 1001 days are critical in a child's life. The earliest experiences shape a baby's brain development, and have a lifelong impact on that baby's mental and emotional health."

The manifesto, which was launched in September by Frank Field MP for Labour, Caroline Lucas MP for the Greens, Paul Burstow MP for the Lib Dems and Andrea Leadsom MP for the Conservatives, aims to develop a holistic approach to all ante, peri and postnatal services that would enable seamless access for all families.

Summary of Susan and Kirstie's Presentation:

  • Mental health is a risk factor for neglect, but the majority of women with mental health problems do not neglect their child.
  • Mental health is a risk factor for neglect, but the majority of women with mental health problems do not neglect their child.
  • Perinatal mental health is not just about postnatal depression - women report a range of symptoms and mental health problems in pregnancy and after birth.
  • Mental health assessment during pregnancy and after birth needs to change so we identify the range of problems women report.
  • Perinatal events can be stressful and sometimes traumatic. Women's subjective experiences are paramount in perceived stress and trauma, and support can buffer against negative effects. Providing good supportive maternity care can therefore really make a difference to women's experiences and subsequent emotional wellbeing.
  • Services for perinatal mental health vary regionally and there is limited evidence on effective treatments, especially for less recognised problems such as loss, anxiety, PTSD etc. If patterns of neglect or emotionally absent parenting are established these need to be addressed in addition to mental health, as treating women's mental health does not necessarily change their parenting behaviours.

Professor Stanton Newman, Dean of the School of Health Sciences, said: "Participation in APPG meetings is an excellent way to influence and inform government policy on key issues, an essential part of the work we do here. It's extremely encouraging that policy makers are using research and the opinions of leading experts like Professor Ayers to inform their decision making."

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